Conserve Wildlife Blog

Bats, Birds, Boy Scouts, Bobcats, Bog turtles and a Beaver:

August 15th, 2011


By Erica Fischer, CWF Summer Intern

Holding a big brown bat during a maternity colony survey. Photo by MacKenzie Hall

It’s hard to believe that it has been two months since the start of my internship with the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. As a rising senior in college (when did that happen?), I can attest to the fact that time flies. Last December I contacted MacKenzie Hall, a Private Lands Biologist with the CWF and bat expert with a proposition. My college had provided me with a stipend after the completion of a long list of requirements for an unpaid internship. Being an avid wildlife lover, biology student and a resident of New Jersey, the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey seemed like the perfect fit. MacKenzie graciously agreed to take me under her [bat] wing.

On June 1, I jumped right into MacKenzie’s work with the bat population of New Jersey. I was quickly contacting volunteers, designing driving routes and delivering acoustic bat detectors. We were working on assessing the bat population of New Jersey with the use of five brand new acoustic bat detectors split amongst forty volunteers.


An American kestrel nestling in my hands. Photo by M. Hall

Aside from this, I was quickly meeting people in the CWF and New Jersey’s Endangered and Non-Game Species Program. This opened up a whole new variety to my internship as I was invited on multiple occasions to help other staff members with their work. I surveyed black-crowned night heron rookeries, photographed amphibian crossing culverts, banded American kestrel chicks, listened for blue-winged warblers at the crack of dawn, drove an orphaned beaver to a vet, assessed grassland vegetation and tracked bobcats and bog turtles (successfully!).

When I was spending time back in the bat world, MacKenzie and I began more than just transferring acoustic bat detectors across the state. We helped boy scouts build bat houses, gave nighttime bat tours to children, kayaked in an abandoned mine, visited multiple homes and barns to search for guano, tagged multiple species of bats, helped a local bat rehabilitator and delivered bat houses wherever we could. A deep appreciation of bats was growing in me — I undoubtedly believe this summer changed my life.

With the end of my undergraduate career in sight and the possibility of graduate school looming, I began the summer feeling overwhelmed and lost in terms of a goal for my life. I hadn’t even realized an interest found me! I learned a great deal from MacKenzie about the bat-research world: it’s a close-knit community in desperate need of answers. I have unexpectedly found myself in bat research, and am currently designing my senior thesis on bat ecology (with the gracious help of MacKenzie and Mick) while excitedly applying to graduate school professors working in the bat field. 

Aside from the wildlife-rich and nature-filled work, I also spent time with the genuinely friendly and inviting people I worked with outside of the office. I would have never thought the small staff would be so welcoming to a college summer intern, and these unexpected friendships were some of the best aspects of this job. For this and every experience, I want to thank everyone I worked with, especially Mick, Brian, Sharon, Gretchen, Christina, Kristin, Karena, Jackie, the beautiful and wild state of New Jersey and most of all, MacKenzie. Because of you, I will forever be searching for bat droppings and inevitably anticipating dusk.

Recording bat calls in the Bearfort Mountains. Photo by M. Hall


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