A Day in the Life of a Research Technician

by Michelle Reilly

JHU alumni, MS Environmental Sciences & Policy, 2011

“One of the most enjoyable jobs you’ll ever have….”

A lot could be argued about that statement. I often find myself on the fence about the answer. Is it the job of one of my field technicians or the job I have as a PhD researcher?

My dissertation project looks at the impacts of non-motorized recreation on habitat use of medium and large mammals in the San Francisco Bay ecoregion. This is a unique place—the California Floristic Province. It is one of only five Mediterranean climates in the world and was named a biodiversity hotspot due to the large number of endemics.

Image courtesy of Michelle Reilly

Image courtesy of Michelle Reilly

This project aims to include as many different land management agencies as possible (robustness in the design). My study area includes over five million acres of natural lands and hundreds of different land managers. This means contacting hundreds of agencies and filling out numerous scientific collecting permits each year. It’s a lot of work, but well worth it – just ask my technicians.

What can you do with 150 top-of-the-line camera traps? A lot.  My technicians each carry a 50 pound pack filled with camera gear into the field, down steep, uneven slopes, and through poison ivy, and then up to nearly half a mile off-trail to set cameras. Fifteen days later, they return to retrieve the cameras. Last year we collected over 250 thousand photos. The technicians went through every single photo and catalogued each one according to species and number.

Image courtesy of Michelle Reilly

Image courtesy of Michelle Reilly

As you can see, my technicians are an integral part of the success of this project. After going through more than 250 applications, I hired the most dedicated, intelligent, and truly amazing group I could ever have dreamed of. 

I have a new set of eager technicians lined up for summer 2013 and can’t wait to see what this season brings!


For more information on this project: http://michellereillywildlifecameratrap.weebly.com/index.html

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