Because the ways in which we interact with our natural environment and with each other are interconnected.
Welcome to the Wildlifers' Blog, where we step into the world of our fellow wildlife professionals. The array of professional pathways in wildlife science and management is extensive. Not only that -- the Bay Area is a big region, with many diverse ecosystems, people, mirco-climates, and cultures! The goal here is to share experiences and interests among our members on a monthly basis, as a virtual option for low-pressure community engagement and fun. Any member of The Wildlife Society is welcome to participate. We've prepared some pretty simple template questions for you to work from, but please feel free to share more if you like! Please keep all language respectful.
Email TWSBayArea@gmail.com to be featured on the blog!
This month we are featuring Wildlifer, Rachel Roberts!
County Where you Live: Contra Costa
Profession: Wildlife Biologist, Mammalogist
What are you working on these days?
Tell us about a favorite project or a recent day in the field.
I am currently working for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) as a Senior Environmental Scientists Specialist and my focus is on bobcats. We have been legislatively mandated to produce a management plan for bobcats by 2025. We are currently in the data gathering phase, which means working with remote camera stations, collecting bobcat scats for fecal DNA analysis, and trapping and collaring cats.
Although there are many things about my job that I like, one of my most favorite projects is working with the remote camera stations. I've had many days in the field recently where I have found myself hiking to a remote location in a beautiful landscape in order to check camera stations that have been out for six weeks. I just feel so at home and at my most real self when I'm navigating cross-country with only my experience, instincts, and a good GPS app to guide me. Sometimes you set up a camera station in the perfect "catty" location and don't see anything exciting in the photos when you return. And other times, places that you didn't think would have cats at all, turn out to be packed full of bobcats. I really enjoy the remote camera portion of our bobcat research.
Obviously trapping and handling bobcats is a highlight of the job, but the most rewarding aspect of this part of the project has been working with the Regional CDFW bobcat crews. We have spent a lot of time collectively learning how to trap bobcats and what different methods work in different parts of the state. Each team has undertaken this task with a passion and fervor that proves what fantastic upcoming wildlife biologists we have coming up in this field.
What sparked your initial interest, and/or what has inspired you most in your career?
I've always wanted to work with animals and then making my way through college classes I realized that I wanted to work outside. The field classes that I took at San Jose State University (SJSU) are really where the sparks began to happen. Going into the field with my college cohort and incredible professors, I learned so much and that's when I was sure that I wanted to pursue wildlife biology. Then a little later my passion for mammals was solidified with my Mammalogy class and small mammal trapping.
What resources (and/or who) helped you get to where you are today?
Describe how your career has been enhanced by exposure to diverse people, places, or experiences. How could others, who may be trying to have a career like yours, take advantage of similar opportunities?
My professors at SJSU worked closely with the caretakers of the Canada de los Osos Ecological Reserve (CDLO) in Santa Clara County, one of the CDFW lands in the area. As such we spent a lot of time in our field classes going out and doing research and restoration activities at the Reserve. That experience led to my MS thesis research on bobcats at CDLO, which in turn led to my ending up in my current position. CDLO provided me with many of the resources that I needed to get through my graduate degree, and its caretakers and the regional CDFW staff continue to support our bobcat project.
Exposure to diverse people and places has enhanced my career through providing me with varying trials and experiences that have given me a diverse set of skills to pull from. I spent a lot of time volunteering, working for little pay and traveling away from home to seek these experiences and it was definitely worth it. I realize that my fortune at being able to do these things does not ring true for many younger scientists these days, but there is a lot to be said for volunteering at home in your community. Getting involved in local citizen science projects, working to care for your fellow humans, local wildlife, and their precious habitats, helping to clean a waterway, or participating in a BioBlitz or Christmas bird count are all great ways of gaining diverse experiences and making connections that could lead you to that next step in your path.
Where is one of your favorite places to play outside in the Bay Area?
Morgan Territory Regional Preserve
We used to live very near a trailhead going into Morgan Territory and I spent many years exploring the Preserve. I've had many wonderful experiences on that property and seen it change over the seasons and over the years, making it a very special place in my life.
We were exploring up on a rocky ridgeline one year when we came around a bend and ran smack into a nesting prairie falcon. The frightened bird chased us down the ridge, diving at our heads as we tried to climb through rocks as quickly as possible to get away. A breathtaking and frightening experience.
Another time we were out on a hike pretty far from home, in the early evening time. We were not hiking during the rainy season but there were huge gray clouds heading over us, which was a little confusing. Finally as we were making our way back to the trailhead but still about two miles from home, the clouds opened up and dumped hail. One side of the sky was clear blue and the other was gray and stormy. It hailed on us all the way until we got home. We were soaked and our little dog was so put out by having to run home in a hail storm. It was a fantastic experience!
Photo credit: Rachel Roberts.
Photo credit: Rachel Roberts.
Thank you, Rachel!
Would you like to be the next Wildlifer featured on the blog?
And remember to follow us on Social Media!
Facebook: San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of The Wildlife Society