Mangrove Cuckoo

So one of the reasons why I haven’t been posting much stuff on here lately is because now with spring migration over and summer starting, the birding has now slowed down to almost a complete halt. You get your rarities here and there but most of the things you will see are your typical residents.

A couple of days ago, a friend, and excellent birder, Rangel told me about where to find a Mangrove Cuckoo in South Florida. I read on a report that there is a pair hanging out in the same area in south dade county. Rangel explained to me how to get there and I decided to make a short trip there this morning and hopefully find this very cool bird. Mangrove Cuckoos are a specialty here in South Florida. You can’t find them anywhere else in the United States except for south Florida!

Got there at 7:30am and went “hunting” for an hour and a half. No sign of them whatsoever so I decided to call it quits. I’ll try again next week at a different spot, homestead. Rangel told me that he has found several of them in that area before so I am gonna give it another shot next week. I did however manage to get a nice shot of this Killdeer, this morning.Image

He was foraging for food and did not seem to mind me being near him. Over the past couple of weeks, there have been interesting birds coming into the Wildlife Rehab Center I work at, I just forget to post them on here so I am gonna try to do my best to remember to take a picture of an interesting find and tell you guys about it. We got in a South Polar Skua and a Corey’s Shearwater!!! I could not be more excited to be able to handle those birds first hand and see them up close, since they are pelagics and it’s such a treat to see them in a lifetime. I’ll post the pictures later today or tomorrow when I upload them on the computer.

Updates: Life is going smoothly, nothing new or “life-changing” to report. I recently transferred to a new department at the wildlife rehab center and so far it is so going really well. I am on the scene first hand for these injured animals and the things I see while on the field is really rewarding. Not to mention I don’t have to be stuck in the clinic or the center all day. I don’t wanna celebrate too soon either because we all know, people eventually get tired of routine but for the meantime, I will soak in the good vibes and be excited for the opportunity to be in this department. Until then guys, have fun exploring!

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Evergreen Cemetery

So the night before my weekend begins, I usually go on Ebird.org and check out the sightings that have been going on around my area. ebird is an amazing tool that birders, and biologists use to see where the birds are at and what species are seen. Today I decided to check out this cemetery to go birding, which I honestly found to be a bit odd. I have gone out in the field and hiked miles away from civilization to go birding but never in a cemetery. But what the heck, I decided to give it a shot since there have been a lot of reports on migrating warblers. Once I got there I immediately saw the regulars, blue-jays, mocking birds, and starlings. After a couple of minutes looking for red starts ad cedar waxwings, i stumbled upon these two birders who asked me if i had seen certain species of warblers. I nodded no and we began to talk and update each other on our day. Apparently on of the ladies that were birding knows the area so well that she told me all the best spots that warblers like to hang out and feed. Certain trees that produce more ripe fruit and have more bugs, so I decided to follow them and see what we could find. We ended up seeing american redstarts, capmay warbler, black and white warbler, black throated blue warblers, ovenbirds, common yellow throats, least flycatcher. Amazing amount of birds I had never seen and all thanks to this lady who took me to these trees that had these awesome birds!

As a novice wildlife photographer, most of my pictures are of larger birds that don’t move around a lot so trying to get a good picture of these guys (wood warbler) was literally impossible. Unfortunately this birding adventure has no good pictures but I hope next week’s birding adventure will be more successful in photography. Until then guys

-Hans

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I am Back (seriously this time)

Hey guys, sorry for the delayed updates (again). I somehow plan to write at least once a week and then I seem to get distracted with other things and eventually forget to write my posts.

So as far as updates go. Besides the amount of work I have been doing at my job, which has been draining all my energy by the end of the day, I have been involved in a few side projects which I am very excited (and nervous) about. The Florida Fish and Wildlife has partnered up with an organization called the “Florida Shorebird Alliance” and has been doing some really cool projects involving shorebirds. Basically, shorebirds have been nesting less and less throughout recent years because of loss of habitat at the beach. More and more people, and pets have been taking over their nesting spots so they have adapted to nest on rooftops of certain building with appropriate substrate. The substrate is a gravel like flat surface on top of roofs for any type of building. (big or small) The problem with this is that baby chicks have a danger in falling out of the roof through the rain gutters from the buildings and now, more owners are resurfacing the rooftops to just concrete which makes it impossible for these shorebirds to nest there. It’s very critical that we monitor breeding status for many shorebirds to make sure they are not in danger of being threatened.

Another project that i am hoping to get started by fall of 2014 is a Bird-Window Collision Project using GIS (geographic information system). I need a professor to lead the project and then I need to get 4 undergraduate students to be part of my team. I will have control for most of the project but researchers need a professor to supervise the whole thing and the 4 undergraduates to help with the workload. With this project, we will monitor three buildings with windows covering most of the structure and survey them for dead migrating birds. A lot of migrating birds that come through, hit windows and unfortunately die from the trauma. Some of them get lucky enough to just sustain minor injuries and are successfully rehabilitated and released back out. With this study we can see how frequently these birds are getting affected by certain types of windows and what species of bird is getting affected most.

That is as far as updates go. Besides that, I am just birding on the weekends until migration season dies down, then will probably start herping for the rest of the summer with a buddy of mine. We’ll see what’s out there!

That

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I’m back!

Greetings Everyone! I’m back and ready for business!

Wow, it’s been over 1 year since my last post? This is very disappointing but I am very glad to start writing again. A lot has happened in my life since my last post. I mean A LOT. From job changes, to personal dilemmas, to amazing experiences and opportunities. I apologize for an extremely long delay in posts but this year has been a roller coaster. I have had zero time to really sit down and write.

I was looking over my past posts and noticed on how eager I was to get my career on track. I can’t believe it has finally happened. I could not feel more fortunate that it has happened this quick. I have so many amazing updates and I wanted to share them with whoever reads my blog. (I think I may have lost my followers) but I hope to get them back and add new ones! This time, I will try my best to not disappear. Besides wanting to share my experiences with everyone, blogging really helps my writing, and improves skills that I need to work on.

So, updates:

Well, where do I begin? December of last year after my internship at Pelican Harbor was over, I was offered a job at a science museum in south Florida. The position was for a Wildlife Keeper and I got to provide husbandry and care for reptiles, fish, and birds of prey. The job was incredible, and I learned so much from the position. I was able to help maintain a 3,000 gallon Indo-pacific reef tank. In the reptile section, I provided husbandry for tortoises, turtles, snakes, lizards, arachnids and amphibians. And in the birds of prey department, I was part of the rehab team, helping sick and injured birds of prey and releasing them back in the wild. It really was a cool job but there is always a bad side to everything. It was a part time position and money was tight, but I held on because this was an opportunity I could not let go. My plan was to stay in the position for at least two years before applying to full time keeper or biologist positions. I needed to build my resume since it was my first position in my field.

After just 6 months working there, I was offered ANOTHER position at a wildlife rehab center in south Florida(a position I applied to before joining the museum) that is the largest animal care center in the entire country (or, so they say). The pay was almost double what I was making at the museum and the timing was just too perfect to not accept. Even though I was not at the museum for long, I felt it would be the appropriate step to take, so I can move forward in my career. The decision was not easy at all, it really felt like a battle, but in the end I decided to leave the museum and join the wildlife rehab center team.

The change was overwhelming, work demand was doubled and there is little room for error for mistakes in my department. At the museum, it was extremely relaxed and I got to work at my own pace. I don’t regret the decision but I do sure miss the museum. So it has been exactly 6 months that I have worked at the wildlife rehab center and I have learned even more, just because they handle more variety of species. My position is basically the same thing what I did at the museum but the name is different. I feel very fortunate to be part of such an amazing team and the people there really are great to work with. It is intimidating because of the work demand but I hold my head up high and just do the best I can and learn from my mistakes.

Next plan? right now I don’t exactly have a timed plan but I do hope to graduate soon and start participating in in depth research with biologists. My ultimate goal? Obtain a master’s degree and start doing a variety of research projects dealing mainly with birds and reptiles. (I have grown to love working with birds and reptiles!) This is more of a long term goal but nonetheless a goal.

Besides, the employment changes that have happened this past year, other exciting things have also happened!¬†I have published my second article with the lovely “Strictly fish wrap” on wildlife rehabilitation. Check it out at http://strictlyfishwrap.com/2013/08/25/wildlife-rehabilitation-natures-hospital/. The article is a crash course on wildlife rehabilitation. What it is , how to get involved, the struggles, and accomplishments that wildlife rehab centers have with wildlife conservation.

BIG NEWS: A close friend who is a very experienced and licensed wildlife rehabilitator is doing two presentations for the NWRA (national wildlife rehabilitation association) symposium this March. The organization was asking for abstracts for presentations and she suggested I apply for one and so I did. I got a response and they asked me to also do a presentation for the abstract that I wrote! One of my biggest accomplishments  and I could not be happier. The presentation will focus on Gopher Tortoises (gopherus polyphemus): Their history, ecology, behavior, and why they are important in the wildlife rehab field. It will be 30minutes long and it will take place in Tennessee.

That’s about it for the updates. A lot to take in ( I know). But, whoever is reading this, I want to let you know that with these amazing experiences, I want to share them with you, and touch on amazing topics that I did not have a chance to touch on before. I have so many ideas already running through my mind that I feel like writing them all down this moment, but I shall resist the urge. It’s migration season and a lot of birds are making the journey down here for food and mate pairing, so my job will be busy in the next coming months. This will provide lots of interesting stories and of course pictures. A blog is just not as entertaining without pictures of amazing animals that we share this planet with!

I will try my best to make my upcoming posts mostly scientific and ecology based but I can’t make any promises. A lot of my posts will probably be on my thoughts on whatever it is that I am writing. So until then, as Ray Arnold from Jurassic Park says: “hold on to your butts”.

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Money Vs. Passion

Good evening guys, hope everyone is doing well! Today’s topic is a bit different than what I normally write but it’s still an issue and I just wanted to share my thoughts on it.

The other day at work, a coworker named Carmen told me how she was seriously thinking of going back to school and getting a different degree. She said her current field (Teaching) didn’t pay enough and needed to get into the medical field which would pay a lot more. Another coworker told her, that he was recently hired as a full time high school teacher and couldn’t be more excited. As soon as he told her the story, she immediately told him to go back to school and change his degree and get in the medical field because that is where the money’s at. After the conversation, I was very bothered by her response by the whole idea of “doing something that is going to make you a lot of money”. Here is this recently graduated person finally getting into his field (Teaching) and you have a colleague telling him that it’s a mistake getting in the field. How do you tell someone who is passionate about their job that “their choice of career won’t get them very far in life?”.

Now before looking at both sides, I want to briefly state how I got started in the field.

When I graduated high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career. I wanted to keep my options open and see what type of classes would interest me. My parents, pushed me into the medical field and after three years of taking classes that I disliked, I decided to change my major and pursue something more fulfilling.

Now I realize I chose a path that went from a future with a good source of income to a future with a low source of income. Many people often have a hard time choosing their careers because they wanna make sure they don’t end up regretting their decision. In reality many people end up going back to school at least 8 years after graduation because they hate their current career. What’s wrong with getting in a field that is contributing in making the world a better place? even if the pay isn’t great. At the same time, living from paycheck to paycheck isn’t a comfortable lifestyle. We all want a job that pays great and at the same time, a job that makes you want to go to work most days. Sadly in many cases, some careers pay very low and depending on how you live your lifestyle, it will stress you out daily.

There was a story that a coworker told me one day that made a lot of sense to me. She was on her honeymoon with her husband and they went to the Caribbean islands to kayak, hike and do an Eco-tour. In that tour, she told me that the tour guide was the happiest guy in the world doing what he loved to do. He would kayak and hike with tourists daily, educating them on the islands’ biodiversity and history. She then told me that the tour guide had a deep conversation with her and her husband and told them how little he got paid doing what he loved, but at the same time, it was his passion. It was what he would look forward to waking up every morning.

Many people that want to become movie actors, rock stars, writers, etc are often told that those dreams are nearly impossible. In most cases, those careers are extremely hard to get into and that is when one person needs to know the difference between hobbies and a career. At the same time, I have a cousin in California who is an actor and works as a waiter when he isn’t working as an actor. Now some people might tell him to give up on that dream because it is hard as shit to catch a break as an actor but I commend him for his commitment. It’s not like he is doing nothing with his life and just waiting on that one moment that will make him a star.

In the end, we all need all these different types of people in the world, whatever the pay may be. In the end, what matters is what type of lifestyle you want to live, whether it is a lifestyle with lots of luxuries or one with not so many luxuries but still a feeling of joy and fulfillment. People who are making a positive impact on the world are the ones who stand out, no matter what they are getting paid. So when my coworker told me, the medical field is where the money is at, I disagree. Not because I don’t think that is where the money is at, but because that is not the only career people need to get into. We need our teachers, and firefighters, and biologists, and policemen.

When someone is in college and knows what they want to pursue, and has that motivation and passion to get into that career, then money should be the last on your list. As long as that career can hold a roof over your head, feed you and clothe you, than money should not be a very big issue. One thing I know that will personally help me decide that i am in the right career, is one that connects with me in a meaningful level. No matter what we do, how much our income is, what our priorities are, that we are in it to make this world a better place, not only for ourselves but for our children.

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Peregrine Falcons

Goodmorning everyone! I was stumbling through some pictures on my phone and noticed one in particular that i wanted to share with you all. Not for aesthetics but for the story behind it. Image

This Peregrine Falcon came into the wildlife rehab center a few weeks ago. When I first saw him, I didn’t know what species of bird it was but when I was told the story behind these guys I felt motivated to let everyone know. Now bare with me if you already know the story but for those of you who do not, it is a great example of conservation. Peregrine Falcons and Pelicans are just a few examples of birds that were affected with the chemical “DDT” which was found in pesticides in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. DDT is an organochlorine pesticide. These types of pesticides would build up in the birds’ fat tissues, reducing the amount of calcium in their eggshells. With thinner shells, fewer egg embryos would not survive to hatch.

Rachel Carson wrote a book in the 70’s called “Silent Spring” that sparked the environmental movement. She used DDT as an example of the harmful effects that certain chemicals cause wildlife, and the environment in general. These birds were on the endangered list because of DDT and thanks to research, education, and government pressure, these species bounced back and were eventually removed from the endangered species list. Meeting an animal for the first time is a treat, but meeting an animal that was once on the brink of extinction just gets my heart going. Why am I so enthused to share this story with you all? because these examples gives biologists, naturalists, and conservationists hope for a better future. Sure we have a shit load of problems with endangered animals, destroyed habitats and climate change. But when we find a direct human-related problem endangering wildlife, we have the knowledge and will power to do our best to stop it. With all the environmental problems going on in today’s society, we all have to remember that it’s not time to lose hope and learn to “live with it”. We have to remember that there have been so many species that were on the brink of extinction and we were able to save them!

I love that we have all this research going on, we have wildlife rehab centers, and we have breeding programs in zoos and other places that try their best to save a species. That’s one of the perks I find working in these places. You get to meet all these different species you have never met before and you get to hear their amazing stories. I am going to write a quote here that gives me inspiration everyday when I get out of bed and I hope it will give you inspiration to make this world a better place, no matter what field you get into.

“The people that are trying to make this world worse never take a day off, why should I? Light up the darkness”

-Bob Marley

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Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (Nature’s Hospital)

Hello and good morning fellow biologists, naturalists, wildlife lovers, writers, bloggers, and everyone in general! I know i promised exciting pictures and a new article on ocean acidification and coral reef conservation but the dive trip I was planning to take has been post-poned until further notice. I had a meeting/workshop that Saturday and it forced me to cancel the trip. I am pretty bummed out but i know that trip will happen in the near future, while the waters are still warm.

Today’s topic is going to focus on wildlife rehabilitation, what it is, who these people are, and what they stand for.

Wildlife rehabilitation is defined as “the process of removing from the wild and caring for injured, orphaned, or sick wild animals. The goal of wildlife rehabilitation is to provide the food, housing and medical care of these animals, returning them to the wild after treatment”. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wildlife_rehabilitation) Wildlife rehab centers are amazing places where wild animals can get a second chance of survival. Unfortunately by law, it is required for wildlife rehab centers to euthanize injured NON-native wildlife. Any animal native or non-native deserves the right to be treated but unfortunately it is a complicated ethical issue. In one hand, you want every animal to be treated and survive, but on the other hand, treating and releasing non-native animals back into the ecosystem just promotes more harm to the overall balance of nature. My personal opinion to this subject is not so black and white, I have mixed feelings and I’ll gladly share them with you. First, I personally believe every animal has the right to be treated for injuries and be given a second chance at survival. On the other hand, our own ignorance and selfishness started this problem to begin with. I live in south Florida and little did I know how many invasive species we have living among us! Ex: Muscovy ducks, many species of pigeons and doves are all competing with our native wildlife for habitat and food and guess what? the invasive species are winning. Their numbers are skyrocketing while our natives are barely hanging on. So, releasing non-native wildlife back into the wild after care is not helping the situation, in fact, it is making it worse. It is from our mistakes as humans that have caused these complicated conflicts. In the end I really can’t agree with either side because it is such a huge ethical issue concerning the welfare of animals.

Pelican Harbor Seabird Station is a wildlife rehab center in Miami, Fl and it is where I intern. The staff includes: the director ‘Brian Fox’, the wildlife rehab manager ‘Jessica Cline’, a wildlife rehabilitator ‘Theresa’, and a part time wildlife rehabilitator ‘Jan’. Among the staff, many volunteers and interns work and help out this small organization. It is the dedication of the staff and volunteers that makes this organization successful. The South Florida Wildlife Rehab Center, which is located in Ft. Lauderdale has 60 staff and 3 veterinarians, and also has many volunteers who help run the organization. The main difference is that the South Florida Wildlife Center is funded by the Humane Society, the salary for someone just starting there is $12.06/Hour. That is a pretty nice pay check for someone just starting out in this field. Pelican Harbor is not funded by any organization, not even the state funds them. They’re profits are strictly from donations. They only have 3 full time staff including the director. That means two of the full time staff members are on their own taking in and rehabilitating injured wildlife all year round. They work 365 days a year, including holidays too. I cannot give enough praise to the volunteers who help them out daily for free. They show such determination, dedication to what they are passionate about. Just this year alone, Pelican Harbor took in nearly 1600 patients, and the year hasn’t even been over yet. For 3 full time staff members and one part time staff member, that is a lot of work and a lot of effort to treat all 1600 patients; that is why volunteers and donations are such a crucial part to the success of these small organizations

Pelican Harbor takes in a variety of wildlife, from egrets to herons to squirrels, to racoons, to owls, to hawks, to even turtles, but their specialty are (you guessed it), pelicans! The center is filled with pelicans and it is what they specialize in. Many wildlife rehab centers specialize on a certain species of animal and I mean “specialize” as in having the tools and special techniques to better assist that type of animal

A year ago, I interned at Florida International University at a marine ecology lab and worked under a Ph.D Student. She was a very nice girl but never taught me much about the job. She just used the volunteers and interns to do the dirt work so she can concentrate on more important things. I enjoyed doing the lab work but never quite understood the reason why we did the things we did. On top of feeling like I wasn’t part of the team, every time I would ask this Ph.D student on career advice, she was no help, whatsoever!! Toward the end of the school year, the team goes and scuba dives the Florida keys and studies fish behavior and feeding habits.The last day working in the lab, the Ph.D student offered to let me join their team and scuba dive with them in the keys. I was more than ecstatic and finally felt appreciated, and little did I know, she would never call me back the days they would go diving. By the end of the summer I was done with this internship, I felt under appreciated and extremely upset. My girlfriend knew about the situation and helped me look for other internships. She found me Pelican Harbor, and even though it wasn’t a research lab and did not specialize in ecology, it did have something relating to wildlife and conservation. A couple of emails here and there and a few weeks later, I was meeting the wonderful staff of Pelican Harbor.

After a few days working in Pelican Harbor, Jessica (the wildlife rehab manager) told me she wanted to get me involved as much as possible with everything. It started off as just cleaning the pelican pens and feeding the birds. I started to branch out, cleaning the inside pens and feeding the inside birds. Eventually I started assisting in administering medication and holding the birds while the wildlife rehabilitators would perform the procedures, to even use a stethoscope and make sure the bird was in good condition while under anesthesia. After interning for a little more than a month, I am doing all this wonderful work and attending workshops that specialize in: species identification, knowing which medications to administer, performing a physical to determine cause of injury, age of animal, and wrapping of wounds.

I could not be more grateful to be part of this organization. Even as just an unpaid intern, I feel so involved with Pelican Harbor that it feels as I am a full time employee. From getting out of such a bad experience with my previous internship, I was a little hesitant in interning. I have learned so much from this experience and I have yet to have scratched the surface of knowing it all. In the past, I never looked into wildlife rehabilitation, but I have had such a great experience working for this organization, that I wouldn’t be surprised getting into this field, professionally in the near future.

Wildlife rehabilitators make such a great impact on the world that we need more of these organizations in our society. It is such a shame that these places are mostly low budget and can barely pay they’re employees. Their website is http://www.pelicanharbor.org and any donations are more than greatly appreciated. These people deserve all the support they can get. They are passionate of what they do and they are good at it too. There are so many newsletters, articles, symposiums, workshops, and other things that prepare you for the field and help you share ideas with other wildlife rehabilitators. Let us hope that in the future, more funding will be provided to these organizations and more people will contribute to their goals; for these are nature’s hospitals.

Below you will see pictures of present patients at the facility.

Brown Pelicans

Red tail Hawk

Gannet

Double Crested Cormorant

Screech Owl

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Peafowl Chick

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Project Noah

Hello and goodmorning! I hope you all enjoyed the article i wrote for Strictlyfishwrap! I have another article planning to get in the works. It will focus on coral reefs and ocean acidification. Very excited with this article coming up because i will be taking a diving trip to the keys in two weeks and will take various photos of reef fish and corals! It should be a fun project to work on, and in other news i have recently discovered this new website/app for smartphones, called “Project Noah”. Forgive me for restating the obvious for those of you who know what the website is about but for those who do not know, it is an app where you add your wildlife photos and gps the location where you encountered these animals. It is a very addicting app because it has a lot of things to do, you can see other photos posted from other people, post your own photos, comment on others, help identify animals from other people who can’t, and even get “badges” from posting various photos on all animals or on a specific kingdom or family. Very productive app that i wish i could have thought of it. I know it is a year or two old but i just recently discovered it a few weeks ago and i am hooked! http://www.projectnoah.org Check it out and if you are like me, you love to explore, discover and share your encounters, this is the perfect app/website to do it in.

In other news, my work in the wildlife rehabilitation center in south Florida is going very well. I have become very good friends with the manager there and she is teaching me a lot. She is a year younger than me and i feel as if she has accomplished so much. We all have that strive and desire to find our passion and really start our careers going. I am in a bump on the road where i have the passion and desire, but not the connections to get my career started. I will do internships just to get the experience and build my resume but i am more than eager to start my career going already. I know i am not the only one who is struggling with this but just seeing the wildlife rehab manager younger than me and already has 5 years experience dealing with her career on a professional level is inspiring! It gives me motivation to get off my ass and start my career and pursue my passion, weather it is blogging about wildlife, documenting pictures for people to see on a certain app/website, contributing to scientific articles or just educating myself on research and news in my own leisure time. I recently went for an interview as an Aquarist for a museum in south florida and the interview went extremely well. In the end, i did not get the job because HR wanted more experience than what i have under my belt, dealing with fish and coral husbandry. It was a shot to the chest when i heard i did not get the job. The interview went so well with the director of the wildlife department that i thought i had a good chance in getting it. It felt like it was that one shot to get my career started in high gear and i missed it. Its been a really tough couple of days dealing with the news but i am hopeful i will catch a break someday in getting a full time job dealing with my passion.

I will keep you posted after i take that diving trip in two weeks. It is going to be a blast to get to photograph the biodiversity underwater! Take care guys

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New Article! (Preserving Our Ecology)

New Article! (Preserving Our Ecology)

Hi guys, I am proud to announce the article I have been working on is finally published! It has been a work in process and I am so proud I got to see it published for everyone to view. Take a look at it and let me know what you think.

In other news, I have recently started a new internship at a wildlife sanctuary that takes in mostly birds but also other native wildlife. I have become good friends with the manager and they make me feel at home there. It has been a great experience working there so far and I am very excited to write about my new experience. I already have a few good pictures but I plan to take more and then write the article about the sanctuary. So I will keep you up to date on that article coming up

Until next time!

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Ocean Acidification

This video explains what ocean acidification is doing to our oceans and how it is affecting the marine life. Very touching and alarming video that every single person should watch. Hopefully through this video, more people will act and pressure our governments to act and impose laws that will make industries emit less green house gases in our environment.

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