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Going Batty at River Park North

As the natural sciences intern at River Park North my responsibilities vary depending on the day. A tree identification project is my main focus, but I have been able to dabble in other areas of park management. The internship holds eye opening experiences in learning how city parks run, working with the public, and networking with professionals. I am grateful to have been offered this experience as my first internship.

One of the coolest opportunities I have had so far was mist-netting bats with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (US FWS). A biologist from US FWS came out to the park while I was working and explained his project and procedures. I expressed my interest in the work and asked multiple questions to understand the process better. He invited me to join him and one other professional that night for mist-netting as he gathered some data. I said yes and was excited to join! I came back that night around 8:00pm to prepare to open the nets, it started to pour rain! We had to wait an extra thirty minutes before we could go out and open the nets.

There were four large, black polyester nets stretched across multiple sections of the trail and nearby creek. We had to check each net about every ten minutes to see if any bats were caught. It was a slow evening and we caught mostly beetles that flew into the net by accident. Finally, about an hour into checking nets we caught two bats in one of the nets! It took ten to fifteen minutes to get one of them out because he got tangled in a net that was located in the middle of the creek and there was very low light. Once we got both of them out of the net we placed each into separate brown paper bags to carry them back to the data station. There we measured their weight, forearm length, identified their species, approximated age and gender, and recorded the time and location they were caught. Pictures of the bats were also taken to help verify the species and for record purposes. The two bats from that round were a Brown Bat and an Evening Bat (picture left).

Mist-netting was a really exciting field and networking experience. I was able to talk to the biologists about their career paths as well as ask questions about bats and mist-netting. Going into a career in natural sciences, I feel this will be a useful skill to build on. This experience also helped me continue to work on being flexible and doing things outside of my comfort zone. I was not planning on coming back to the park that night and especially was not expecting to stay until midnight, but I am very glad I did! I had never done mist-netting before and now I have that experience under my belt. I am glad I accepted the invitation to participate as I learned new skills and gained confidence. It is certainly an experience I will not forget!

Times at River Park North– Read more about Sarah Bailey’s internship and the valuable lessons she learned.