For traveling researcher Anna Fasoli, bird watching is a hobby and a career.
FWRI Wildlife Research Laboratory
B.S. Environmental Studies and Geographic Information Technology, Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania
I have worked for FWC since early January 2012. Prior to FWC, I worked for several organizations in many different states conducting bird behavioral observations, bird surveys, habitat surveys and radio-telemetry tracking. Some of these organizations include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Center for Conservation Biology at Virginia Commonwealth University.
What are you working on now?
I currently work with FWC biologist Karl Miller to monitor nest boxes for the southeastern American kestrel. I monitor about 150 boxes in Levy and Marion counties on a weekly basis, and also help Karl coordinate the monitoring efforts of an additional 350 nest boxes in the state.
How is this information beneficial?
The southeastern American kestrel population is declining, likely due to lack of suitable nest sites tied to a decline in woodpeckers, such as the northern flicker. American kestrels rely on cavity nesters to excavate their nest sites, as they cannot do this on their own. These boxes are a valuable tool in helping to increase numbers of this subspecies. In addition, the boxes provide an excellent opportunity for long-term data collection, which is extremely useful in tracking the remaining southeastern American kestrels. Comparison studies between natural and human-altered landscapes will likely help us figure out more specific reasons for the decline.
What is your typical work day like?
I am usually in the field by 8 a.m. checking nest boxes. This entails setting up an extension ladder to reach the boxes, which are usually on telephone poles, but sometimes in pine trees. I can check anywhere from 30 to 60 boxes in a day. I find many things in nest boxes, from squirrels to owls, to baby birds that are not kestrels. On other days, I visit the office to update our database and site maps.
Do you have a favorite species to study?
My favorite species to study thus far has been the northern saw-whet owl. On a project for the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art in Millersburg, PA, I was able to track the owls using radio-telemetry at night and also during the day while they were on roost. It is extremely difficult to find a saw-whet on roost otherwise, so I really enjoyed having the opportunity to track them down and work with so many different individual owls. During this project, we learned a lot about the night-time activity ranges of these owls, in addition to their territory sizes while over-wintering in Pennsylvania. I enjoy banding these small and secretive owls during the fall in Pennsylvania, as there is still much to learn about them.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
My greatest accomplishment is simply my continued career in this field; I enjoy helping on as many projects as possible.
What are some of your biggest challenges?
My biggest challenge is keeping a positive attitude in an otherwise depressing line of work. The big picture is usually quite bleak for species in need, and it usually leads back to habitat loss. However, many small successes on these projects add up to big successes in the long run, so that keeps me going.
What do you like most about your career?
Opportunities for bird conservation and ornithological field work are literally everywhere, as more and more species are continuing to decline. I love being able to be continually mobile while finding more ways to help on a variety of projects. If you love to travel, being a field ornithologist is the job for you.
What do you like least about your career?
As time goes on, it is obviously harder and harder to leave family and friends in Pennsylvania. However I am lucky to be able to work in the fall as a hawk watcher on Pennsylvania’s ridges, which usually puts me only a few hours from home.
Did anyone inspire you to become a scientist?
On my first job out of college, I worked very closely with two biologists on a whooping crane reintroduction project that inspired me to continue in this field. They were Dr. Richard Urbanek of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Sara Zimorski, who is now a state biologist for the Non-migratory Whooping Crane Reintroduction Project in Louisiana. Both Richard and Sara are extremely knowledgeable crane biologists, and I was lucky to have such great examples of what I wanted to be early on in my career.
When did you choose this career path?
I chose this career path my second year of college when I started volunteering for a barn owl reintroduction project. This project opened my eyes to the world of bird conservation, and I knew I wanted to continue on similar projects.
What would you be doing if you weren’t involved in science?
I would probably not work and just go birding all the time!
What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career in your field?
My best advice would be to volunteer on projects that sound interesting to you and build your experience. Eventually you will have enough experience to work on the projects that interest you most.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
My free time is most usually consumed by going birding.