NCBS Intern Report: Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

Written by 2023 UF/IFAS NCBS Undergraduate Intern Tristen Ladika, hosted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (CRNWR)

Bird is the Word

NCBS Internship in a nutshell 

This summer I had the amazing opportunity to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Complex. I was able to work on several different projects happening throughout the complex and was able to experience what it would be like working at a federal agency and on a refuge complex. I am grateful for all the knowledge and mentorship that I received, especially from Joyce Kleen, Jim Valade, and Joyce Palmer.


Tortoise Tea Time 

I worked on several initiatives throughout the summer. One of the main projects I was involved with was the Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge Restoration Project. This involved monthly shorebird nesting surveys, developing a vegetation survey sampling protocol, and conducting transects for vegetation monitoring. This was by far my favorite part of my summer because Egmont Key is such a unique place with lots of shorebirds and a very healthy population of gopher tortoises! Around 5 pm seemed to be “tortoise tea time” where we saw many tortoises hanging out around the island munching on plants as we passed by going to and from different field sites. It was really cool to see the process of developing sampling protocols to monitor invasive plants using transects in different areas of the island, as well as getting to actually put the transects in the field. I will never forget the sight of seven adult Royal Terns shepherding a fluffy baby tern to safety, or the hundreds of Black Skimmers living their best lives as they skimmed the surface of the water for food.


Projects, projects, and more projects!

I helped finish collecting data for an ongoing carrying capacity project at Three Sisters Springs which involved going through camera trap data and recording the amount of people entering and leaving the springs, along with what type of vessel they were on and if they had a cooler. In addition, we conducted baseline water quality sampling in the Three Sisters Springs and the spring run. This was especially interesting because Three Sisters is currently closed for a shoreline stabilization project to reduce erosion so there were no people to count! I got to reacquaint myself with ArcGis to input aerial manatee surveys and I assisted with the collection of weather data for the weather station that is located at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge Maintenance Facility. I also got to do weekly bluebird box monitoring at different spots in the complex and it was great to see the bluebird nesting cycle, starting from eggs to full-fledged adults!


Au Revoir, Crystal River! 

Overall, I had a wonderful experience working on the refuge and had the pleasure to get to know some of the most dedicated people in this field; their commitment to wildlife ecology and conservation is inspiring. I was exposed to several different types of field work as well as worked with data back in the office on the computers. This experience has reinforced my love for fieldwork and strengthened my desire to work in the field of conservation in the near future. I would like to thank everyone at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Complex and at the UF Nature Coast Biological Station for their kindness, professionalism, and sincerity in teaching me so many skills I will be using in the future!



| Follow the link to learn more about the UF/IFAS NCBS Undergraduate Summer Internship program. Read more intern blogs here. |


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Posted: October 4, 2023

Category: Coasts & Marine, Natural Resources, UF/IFAS Research, , Wildlife
Tags: Birds, Crystal River, NCBS Interns, Research, Springs

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