By Lillias Zusi

I can’t believe it’s almost time to start our New Mexico journey! We have been working to finalize our research projects all semester, and have been packing and preparing for the summer for the last two weeks. The time has absolutely flown by! It seems like just yesterday I was frantically trying to choose a senior comprehensive topic while finishing off my semester in Australia, and now here we are!

A big part of our prep over the last few weeks has been to list and practice identifying all the different kites, hawks, and eagles that we could potentially encounter during our research… and there are a LOT! We will have to be able to identify them in the field, usually from a distance so we’ve been practicing distinguishing different species from each other. Thank God for Quizlet! Another big part of our preparation includes spending a lot of quality time with our new fancy cameras. We’ll be depending on them for most of our data collection, so it’s important that we figure out how to follow fast-moving birds. Kate and I been heading to nature-heavy areas here in town like St. Pat’s Park and Potato Creek, and have filmed everything that moves – ducklings, families of geese, songbirds, fish-catching ospreys, swimming snakes, frogs, turtles, … and occasionally each other.

A wild Kate appeared!

The hardest part of figuring out our fancy cameras has probably been getting skilled at using the manual focus while zooming in and out. Hopefully we’ll master that before we start our recordings of the hawks and bats…

When we aren’t pretending to be freelance nature documentary photographers, we have been learning about all the different recording equipment that we will be using in the field as we pack it up and label it. We’ve been doing everything from getting crash courses in Electrical Engineering from Dr. Stevenson to learning how to efficiently pack scientific recording equipment from Dr. K.

Packing up all the electronic equipment requires a LOT of labeling!
Look out world, we’ve got sharpies and we’re ready to label.


In addition to all this, the past two weeks have also been full of bat-themed puns, strange insect-themed rock music, impromptu nature walks, bonding time with Dr K’s adorable dogs Kaipo and Kona, lots of laughter, and LOTS of freelance photography material.

We leave in a week from today! I can’t believe how much I’ve learned in these two weeks alone, and I can’t wait to get into the field. I’m so grateful to Saint Mary’s Biology Department and Dr. Kloepper for this incredible opportunity!

Until next time!