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Exit Interview: Alexis Cardas

Where are you from and where did you receive your previous degrees?

I am originally from Long Beach, CA.

I received my B.S. in Biology, with a minor in WEC from the University of Florida in 2015.

 

When did you become interested in wildlife ecology or conservation?

I actually didn’t even realize there was a Wildlife Ecology and Conservation major at UF until I started as an undergraduate student in 2013, hence I majored in Biology but was able to add on the WEC minor once I learned of its existence.  I just knew that I wanted to work with wildlife and be able to make a difference to the natural world through my work in some way, no matter how small or large that may be.

I always wanted to work with animals as a child but didn’t follow my heart right out of high school, but wound up finding my way back.

 

What did your research focus on?

I studied the impacts that translocation may place on a donor population of Florida scrub-jay in Ocala National Forest.  Specifically, what happens to family groups when we, as scientists, remove helpers from a group for translocation to another part of the state?  We collected data on provisioning rates at the nest, nestling mass, and nest success, to determine the benefits that non-breeding helpers provide to family groups in Ocala National Forest.  We did not find that helper presence increased provisioning rates, nestling weights, or nest success.  So helper translocation could be a viable option moving forward for Florida scrub-jay conservation, and should continue in order to increase sample size.  This option also affords the luxury to keep the current breeding population in Ocala National Forest while still allowing us to continue to translocate birds to other parts of the state.

 

Why did you choose to study that particular topic?

It was really a natural progression for me because I worked with Florida scrub-jays prior to graduate school (with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission).  So when FWC initiated the translocation project in 2017, I was offered the opportunity to use the work I was already going to be doing anyways as my thesis research project (which is just one small part of the larger translocation project that is still currently active).  Plus, I adore the Florida scrub-jay and they are really a joy to work with in the field!

 

What was your most memorable experience at WEC/SNRE?

Being a mentor has really stood out to me during my graduate studies at UF.  It was very rewarding to give back to undergraduates and be able to assist them with their requests/concerns/experiences.  I fondly remember my first mentee, Carly R., because she was so eager to learn as much as she could and she really enjoyed going out and gaining experience in the field with me.  She then successfully was awarded a summer internship with FWC after her graduation and continued to go on to work for FWC on a full-time basis. Talk about being a proud mentor! 

What are your plans moving forward?

I just accepted a position with FWC based out of Lakeland, FL.  I will be the new Rooftop Nesting Biologist for the SW region….and I start Friday May 7.  It all happened very fast, thankfully I can work remotely for the next month before I move down south.