Conserve Wildlife Blog

My Summer Adventure with Osprey

October 6th, 2019

by Marissa Murdock, 2019 NJ Osprey Project Intern; Rider University ’21

Marissa holds osprey 83/K who was banded after pre-maturely fledging and landing on the ground.

This past summer I was lucky enough to work with Conserve Wildlife Foundation as a volunteer student intern. I worked alongside Ben Wurst, CWF’s Habitat Program Manager, helping with the New Jersey Osprey Project. My internship consisted of assisting with osprey surveys, banding young, and recording data so that we can estimate the health of the population in New Jersey. 

Marissa carries a ladder on the coastal saltmarsh.

This job definitely was not a walk in the park. It was physically demanding and dirty. I had to carry a 20-foot extension ladder (or two) to nest platforms across saltmarsh terrain. On my first day, I fell into the marsh twice. The first time I accidentally stepped into a ditch thinking it was not that deep. I was wrong. I ended up sinking waist deep into the mucky water. Later when I was throwing out the anchor, I fell right off the bow of the boat and onto the marsh…

Marissa records data while surveying nests inside Sedge Islands WMA.

A few weeks later, our boat got stuck in a shallow area at an active nest. Since Ben was running the boat, I needed to enter the water to help get the boat free. I kept pushing the boat until water was up to my waist. Then after we could move the boat, I now found that I couldn’t jump back into the boat. Luckily two other volunteers were with us and were able to pull me up! Despite coming home covered in muck every day, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I loved my internship and talk about it all the time with people. One family friend started referring to me as “Osprey Girl”, which is a title I’m proud to have.

Marissa holds onto a young osprey after it was banded for future tracking. Little Egg Harbor, NJ.

Together Ben and I surveyed around 170 nests during the course of my internship. I saw young ranging from the ages of just a few days old to seven weeks old. The number of young found this summer for when I worked with Ben is over 100 nestlings which I am so happy to report! I got to hold my first young osprey on July 9th. I was nervous at first, but quickly got comfortable holding him. Handling one of the young at the nest was helpful for when Ben and I went on another survey later on and one of the young fledged early, so Ben and I had a “mini rescue mission” to get him back and return the osprey to his nest (see photo at top).

Marissa surveys an active nests on the Mullica River.

Overall, I would have to say I had a pretty awesome summer. A lot of my family members and friends loved seeing my posts on social media about my work in the field and all my new experiences. My adventures with osprey will definitely be something I will never forget! I would like to thank Ben Wurst and CWF for giving me this amazing opportunity, and hope that I get to work with them again in the future.

This was the first year that we’ve recruited a student intern to assist with the New Jersey Osprey Project and it was a glowing success. With a larger boat, it now allows us to share this important fieldwork with deserving students, our members, volunteers, and donors to this project. Marissa was an asset to the Project this summer and helped make it one of the most successful in recent years. –Ben Wurst

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2 Responses to “My Summer Adventure with Osprey”

  1. Carole Steel says:

    I was fascinated by Marissa’s experience with the NJ Osprey Project. Is there any possibility she could visit my class to speak about her experience? I have 10 fifth grade students working on the Species on the Edge Art and Essay contest and would love to give them some real world connections right here in NJ. I teach the enrichment program at Highland Elementary School in Midland Park, Bergen County, NJ.

  2. Ben says:

    Hi Carole, I will send you an email to see if we could work something out. Thanks for reaching out!