Field Specialist Experience: Abby Cyr

By: Megan Zeiher, Recruitment Coordinator

Fall is a time of transition, so it is only fitting this season has us looking ahead to the 2018 AmeriCorps term here at the Corps. We recently opened Field Specialist and Individual Placement positions and will be accepting applications until Friday, October 13. Field Crew and Youth Outdoors positions will open on Wednesday, October 18. These members serve January/February through December of 2018 and are eligible for the full $5,815 Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, among other benefits unique to the service year experience.

To learn more about the Corps experience through the eyes of a Field Specialist, we talked with Abby Cyr, who is currently serving in the Northwest District of Minnesota. Abby first heard about Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa through a career fair at her college, Hamline University. She saw an opportunity she couldn’t pass up—the opportunity to work outdoors, serve the environment, and be employed right after graduating college.

Her initial experience with the Corps was a summer term in a Superior National Forest “Faces of Tomorrow” Crew. She then extended her service term through December with the Forest Service, before applying to be a Field Specialist to gain more experience.

Abby likes that the Field Specialist position requires independence and gives her the opportunity to develop her strengths and confront her weaknesses. She also likes the mix of time in the field with other members and work on her own.

“I coordinate logistics for crews, create equipment lists, organize safety protocols, develop emergency response plans, and help train crews in chainsaw, power and hand tools. I work with crews part of the week and work in the shop maintaining equipment and doing office work the rest of the week.“

Abby credits her experience as a Field Specialist for helping her develop leadership abilities and has this advice for incoming members in her same role, “Keep papers and documents organized, have a list of tasks needing to be completed, and remember to let crew leaders be crew leaders—even when they ask for advice when you are the specialist.”

She describes her biggest challenge in this role as, “balancing time in the field with what needs to be done in the shop and still being there for the crews with functioning equipment.”

Through her experience with the Corps, Abby knows she wants her career to always involve working outdoors in roles that allow her to make a positive impact on the environment.


To start your own Conservation Corps journey, check out our apply page and explore open positions. To learn more about Field Specialist roles, visit this page or email questions to recruit@conservationcorps.org.

New blogger: Clare Riley

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Name: Clare K. Riley

Crew: Crew Leader for Youth Outdoors Ramsey County Crew (YO4)

Hometown: St. Paul, MN

College: University of MN, Twin Cities - College of Biological Sciences

Favorite food: Pot pie or classic Riley mashed potatoes

Hobbies: Playing ultimate frisbee, hiking, biking, reading or finding dogs to hang out with

Favorite outdoor activity: (Do I have to pick just one?) Probably hiking, but I really love pretty much anything outdoors

Person or experience that has most influenced your life: My 3-week study abroad in Thailand my senior year of college, where I was helping with ongoing research on Tiger populations in the Huai Kha Kheng wildlife sanctuary. I had gone into the trip ready to work hard and then continue on with school to become a doctor or potentially a medical researcher; I had a ten year plan and everything.

My world changed when I saw the sanctuary from a lookout point: seeing an area as far as the naked eye could see that was completely untouched and protected by humans made me realize that I want to use what I've got to protect what cannot protect itself. The tigers we were researching, the elephant that could have hurt me and my group but didn't, every plant we marveled at in that jungle.... All of it cannot speak up for itself in a way everyone will listen to, and all of it is protected by humans to the extent that none are allowed in (unless they are researching, as we were).

I realized that, while doctors are very important, there will always be more individuals willing to be doctors. There aren't that many people willing to dedicate as much as they can to protecting this planet as best we can. Ever since I realized I could do something necessary for all species rather than just our own, I've been driven by an indescribable passion. I have an opportunity to do something truly great for things that will never be able to thank me. I still don't know exactly what career will allow me to best help, but I've got time to figure that out. That trip altered my career path, my worldview and my life. I could not be more grateful or proud of the choices I have made since.

A mile on the wings of bats

By: Tamara Beal

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It’s been seven weeks since the “bats n’ bucks” crew first came together in Ames, Iowa. Inga a Minnesotan (far left), Amanda and Amy Iowans, and myself a New Yorker (far right) make up a unique sect of the Conservation Corps, called the Wildlife Studies Crew. Our abbreviated five month term is broken up into two different research projects. The purpose of the first study is to gain knowledge on the migratory patterns and behaviors of the Northern Long Eared bat. The second study, expected to start in mid-November, is focused on learning how and why chronic wasting disease affects White-Tailed deer, hence the witty name ”bats n’ bucks.”

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The Northern Long Eared bat, identifiable by their prominent ears, is a threatened species. This project was drafted to allow the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) insight on the migratory pathways these bats are using in relation to the thousands of wind turbines (mills) that call Iowa home. Although wind turbines provide a clean energy resource, their spinning blades can often wreak havoc on flying animals such as bats. For this reason, Copperhead Consulting and Stantec were hired to organize teams of biologists to track bats using radio transmitters.

Our first few weeks of the project were spent deploying acoustic detectors. With a microphone and a SD card, these devices are able to pick up high frequency echolocation calls and store this data. A program then does most of the hard work, differentiating the calls between different species of bats. A site with a high number of Northern Long Eared bat calls would then be deemed a possible good site for netting.

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The second, much more highly anticipated stage of the project started a few weeks ago with our first captured and tagged Northern Long Eared bat! To accomplish this, a very fine mesh material must be stretched in between two 3 meter high poles (pictured at the end). To have the best chance of catching bats, this system is usually set up in a “fly way” or a part of the forest that has some funneling affect the bats would take to or from water. A higher success rate is ensured using a lure that emits a high frequency distress call to peak the curiosity of the bats (pictured left).

Lucky for us, even though Northern Long Eared bats are the focus of our project, all bats that are caught in the nets must be processed for weight, signs of white nose syndrome, and forearm length. Here are some pictures of the different kinds of bats caught so far: red bat (top left), hoary bat (top middle-left), silver bat (top middle-right), big brown bat (top right), evening bat (bottom left), little brown bat (bottom center), and northern long eared bat (bottom right). My personal favorite being the silver bat. All bats are released shortly after data is recorded.

After a northern is caught, it must be weighed to determine that the glue, plus the radio device will not be more than 6% of its body weight. A small patch of fur on its back is then cut away (left), glue is applied (center), and the transmitter is stuck on (right).

These transmitters are set to a specific radio frequency which is tracked at night by plane and during the day on foot. And no, I have not gone up in the plane. But that doesn’t diminish the coolness factor of having one and it’s still a great reassurance when we hear it flying above our heads. On our end, a 3 pronged antenna is used to pick up the signal when in a mile radius (Tamara- left). Once a tree is determined as the bat’s roost tree, it is tagged (center), and the area around it is surveyed for tree species, and foliage dominance. This system works great until the transmitters start to die after a few weeks…then the five element antenna comes out (Amy- right)! It was my pleasure to record her struggling through the dense tree branches (https://youtu.be/7zUEfW-dsbQ).

This week, we begin the next stage of our project with hibernacula studies (where the bats hibernate). To learn more about this part of the bats migration, we will be setting up thermal imaging cameras and actively monitoring the bats at night using night vision goggles! Stay tuned for an update on this exciting stage next month!

A “fly way” at JL Reece Memorial Park (look closely at far left and right to see poles for netting).

A “fly way” at JL Reece Memorial Park (look closely at far left and right to see poles for netting).

A highway for butterflies

By: Aimee Junget

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Monarchs make a longer journey than most of us will in our summer road trips, traveling from Canada to Mexico as they migrate. Humans have highways to get us from point A to point B with plenty of food, rest stops, and signs to help us on our way, so why shouldn’t monarchs have the same? In an initiative to restore habitat for monarch butterflies along their journey, a joint effort between The Nokomis East Neighborhood Association, Metro Blooms, Master Water Stewards, our CCM crew, and additional volunteers led to the creation of the Monarch Mile. The Monarch Mile is a stretch of 17 gardens installed along East 50th street in the Longfellow neighborhood near Lake Nokomis. The gardens run between two larger pollinator gardens: The Gateway Gardens near the intersection of East 50th Street and Hiawatha Ave and the Nokomis Naturescape located where East 50th Street meets the lake.

The gardens are an effort toward habitat continuity and an increase in native prairie plants that pollinators need to thrive. In agreement with homeowners, the gardens were installed on the boulevards along the corridor by first removing sod, working the soil to be conducive to planting, and, finally, planting native forbs for pollinators to enjoy. It’s all an effort to improve our urban ecosystem and, hey, it doesn’t hurt if it looks pretty, too! Perhaps the Monarch Mile near Nokomis will inspire more “highways” to be built to help out our pollinators. Monarch butterflies make a remarkable journey and we are lucky to have them pass through, so why not help them along their way!