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The Road So Far

Hello everyone!

My name is Audrey. I am one of the new fall interns here at Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge. I graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a Concentration in Ecology, Evolution and Environment. ASU is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the small town of Boone, North Carolina. I live in NC as well. Hands-on experiences with wildlife in their natural habitats propelled me to pursue a career in wildlife conservation, which is how I ended up here in Madison, Indiana. I was actually born in Indianapolis and have been here many times over the years.

Hello, my name is Ethan. I am the other Fall intern at Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge. I graduated from a small private college named Unity College located in Unity, Maine. I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Wildlife Biology with a minor in Ecology. I currently live in northern New Jersey. I always wanted to pursue a wildlife career because I wanted the outdoors to be my workspace. Something about the outdoors being a workspace always made me feel like whatever I am doing wouldn’t feel like a job. This is my first time off the East Coast in my life and it’s made me excited to really start traveling more for different job experiences.

We will post weekly blogs about our journey here at BONWR. Feel free to follow the Big Oaks Conservation Society on Facebook for pictures, weekly reminders of events and if you have any questions.


We begin with a tour of the refuge. As our supervisor took us on the back roads of the refuge, we could not help but think that we were going to get lost - a lot. Deep in the forests and grasslands of the refuge, it can get complicated to navigate for newcomers like us. Rest assured, we are getting better at it… We always keep a (ok, a couple) map(s) in the car, just in case.

On our first day, we saw multiple eastern box turtles basking in the sun on the road (we moved them to the side of the road they were facing), a racer snake which bolted across the road so we only caught a small glimpse of, and four otters swimming around in a pond - a rare sighting on the refuge. Avian species were also observed: vultures and other smaller birds roamed the skies and vegetation.

On our second day, we were brought out into the woods for some boundary posting: a process in which signs with numbers (boundary), orange coloration (hunting) or closed markings (inaccessible to the public) are nailed into trees to identify one of the 65 different boundaries in the refuge itself. We were told that some areas are not open to the public due to heavily concentrated amount of unexploded military equipment in certain areas. We've seen a few of those trekking through the woods. Impressive devices. Better to keep our distance… just in case.

Lodge Day came quickly after! Posted at the eastern gate and gate 8, we welcomed over 400 visitors into the refuge. A lot of name writing! The hours went by quickly at Gate 8. I (Audrey) was allowed one bite of my pizza before having to start checking people in again. No worries however! I enjoyed speaking with everyone that came through and eventually did get to finish my pizza.

Does everyone here remember the driver's ed? Yeah? Well, we got to do that again! Interns drive a government vehicle, which requires the NSC Defensive Driving Course 10th Edition R3 (English) Certificate. It's all about defensive driving!

We are also happy to report that we have finished our wildlife fire training courses. The next step is hands-on training with field firefighting tools and equipment. All firefighters in the making have to pass a medical examination and a pack test. The pack test consists of walking 3 miles with a 45 lbs backpack in under 45 minutes. We were told that we should be fine… A practice run would be a good idea. Perhaps two? Oh, and remember to always have SA! We'll let you search what that abbreviation means.

Alright, one more thing to catch everyone up on our first month at BONWR. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (I.D.E.M.) came to the refuge two days in a row for fish and water sampling to assess the biodiversity (aka the health) of the streams.

Here are a few pictures from our first month here.

This is an Eastern Box Turtle. Remember if you see one, move them to the other side of the road in the direction they were going in. These reptiles like to bask in the sun for Vitamin D.

One way to know where you are in the refuge is to locate landmarks. This is a big oak tree located on the western perimeter.

I.D.E.M. obtain fish samples to collect data on stream biodiversity and overall water quality. The picture above shows some of the equipment I.D.E.M used during sampling. The buckets were used to sort fish species. The overall mass of each fish species was weighed using the scale located on the yellow case. The ruler (the wooden piece of wood in the top left corner) was used to measure the shortest and longest fish in each fish species. All data was recorded to be processed later at I.D.E.M headquarters.


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