The following was written by Bay Noland-Armstrong, who is a 5th year and captain on the UGA Equestrian team. She is studying Wildlife Sciences, with a minor in Ecology, and an Environmental Education certificate through the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Bay had the opportunity to pursue an internship with the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department during the summer of 2023.
This past summer was definitely one to remember, and I might go as far as saying it was the best summer of my life. I spent the last 3 months working as a wildlife intern with the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department. I was based outside of Missoula and traveled throughout the entirety of northwest Montana, where I worked both independently and with other biologists on various wildlife projects.
My official job title was the “Loon Ranger”, which involved me monitoring breeding populations of Common Loons. The Common Loon is a beautiful aquatic diving bird which looks like a mixture between a duck and a penguin. They are incredibly interesting birds, as they spend much of their lives in the ocean and migrate to high-elevation, alpine lakes for their breeding season. Common Loons also are very long-lived, with some living up to 35-40 years, and their distinctive and howling call is what they are best known for. Fun fact: loon calls are often used in movies and can even be heard in the original Jurassic Park series! These birds are also a species that are not allowed to be hunted due to their current conservation threats and symbolic meaning to many cultures. These conservation threats include habitat destruction, improper disposal of fishing line, and usage of lead sinkers. A large part of my job involved me leading numerous “loon talks” with the public throughout the summer to increase loon appreciation and educate recreators on their most common threats.
The environmental education side of my job was one of my favorite things to do, as it is so rewarding to teach kids and adults alike on topics I am both passionate and knowledgeable about. In addition to spending my summer on beautiful alpine lakes in the mountains of Montana, I also got the opportunity to assist other biologists with their work! This included working with songbirds, bats, black bears, salamanders, frogs, and ducks. I was able to both expand my knowledge in my field and put the skills I’ve been learning in the classroom to the test!
The Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources here at UGA did a fantastic job in preparing me for real-world jobs and field-work, as I was able to apply the classes and projects I’ve completed to almost everything I was tasked with over the summer. Additionally, the experience I’ve gotten on the equestrian team was also incredibly beneficial to me. Although I was not able to ride many horses (only a few mules), I believe the long and strenuous days in the field were so much easier because of the skills Georgia Athletics has instilled in me. Leadership, time management, resourcefulness, and the ability to work alone and with a team were all skills that benefited me tremendously throughout the summer. I’m so grateful to have been given this opportunity and hope to return to Montana soon!