Last November IBP hired a new full-time staff biologist, Emma Cox. Emma is a seasoned field biologist and an old hand at IBP, having worked seasonally for IBP on our Black-backed Woodpecker point count crew and as the crew lead for one of our forest raptor survey crews. Now we get to work with her year-round! Emma is taking over MAPS data verification from MAPS master Ron Taylor who retired in December, and using her extensive field experience as a pinch hitter for IBP’s various field projects. Emma hit the ground running and we finally got a chance to catch up with her properly.
How did you first get started in field biology?
I was a freshman at UC Davis with no car who really wanted to get to the Sierras to go backpacking, so I responded to a call from a graduate student seeking volunteer assistants to do water and invertebrate sampling in the Sierra Nevada. Basically, I learned that I could make a career of getting paid to go backpacking and it was all over for me.
In addition to your seasonal field jobs with IBP, what other types of field biology jobs have you had?
I've done many seasons of fish and frog and botany work in the Sierra Nevada; raptor migration and raptor nest monitoring in several states including Montana, Hawaii, and California; songbird banding in California, Texas, Hawaii, and Ecuador; point counts all over the Sierra Nevada. I've also done some passerine nest searching and a few seasons of owl work.
Why were you interested in a full-time, year-round position with IBP?
My experiences working with IBP in the past have been wonderful and I was excited to work with a great group of people.
What’s the hardest part of your new position?
Learning any new, highly specific system, like MAPS data verification, can be challenging and frustrating for the first few years I think. IBP’s Executive Director, Rodney Siegel, in particular has been incredibly patient and supportive as I try to learn how to fill Ron's outrageously huge shoes.
Another big part of your job is filling in where needed on IBP’s various field projects. What have you been up to this summer?
A day in the life of Emma: data entry in her car while her dog Tufa naps nearby.
In the spring, I went to the Southwest for a few weeks to help our crew monitoring birds in the national parks of the Southern Colorado Plateau, then I was off to the Yosemite MAPS stations to help with banding. Since then I’ve been based in Truckee, CA, primarily conducting point counts for several montane meadow restoration projects and helping with some Willow Flycatcher surveys on the side. Right now, I'm finishing up point count data entry and getting back to MAPS data verification.
A grumpy Western Toad. Photo by Emma Cox
I feel like it's been Christmas all summer. I've probably been overly gleeful about getting to rocket about on all of the aforementioned field projects this summer and am really grateful that Rodney and IBP Meadow Species Specialist Helen Loffland have made it possible for me to do so. I mean, there's so much to be happy about when one's mornings consist of frosty sunrises, Sandhill Cranes, coyote pups, grumpy western toads, fledgling Song Sparrows, Willow Flycatchers, and joyous-sounding Evening Grosbeaks. Every morning in the field brings at least one thing to be tickled pink over. I think anybody who loves being outside can understand that sentiment.
It's not often you find someone as skilled, flexible, and passionate about birds and conservation as Emma. We’re definitely “tickled pink” to have Emma on the IBP team fulltime.
Perazzo Meadow, near Truckee, CA, at sunrise. Photo by Emma Cox.