Idaho Biologists Work with Local University to Train Students

Spring in southern Idaho marks the beginning of the breeding season for greater sage-grouse, a species of conservation concern across the west, which is well-known for its elaborate courtship displays (see a cool video here). For WAI biologists, spring marks the time to begin monitoring sage-grouse breeding grounds (leks) scattered across the Idaho National Laboratory Site. The purpose of this monitoring program is to support the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) efforts to reduce its impact on this iconic species.

Sage GrouseMonitoring of leks is primarily done by college students or recent graduates hired by WAI to get up in the wee hours of the morning and travel to remote desert locations so they can count birds at the first crack of dawn. Most of the best-qualified technicians come from Brigham Young University–Idaho, in nearby Rexburg, Idaho.  “We have built a great win-win relationship with the university”, says Dr. Quinn Shurtliff, lead sage-grouse biologist for WAI. “The university supplies a steady stream of qualified applicants, and we provide an outstanding opportunity for students to build their resume and gain valuable field experience.” This arrangement is consistent with the goals of DOE’s Environmental Research, Surveillance, and Education program (operated by WAI). 



WAI trains San Diego Zoo staff

Quinn ShurtliffDr. Quinn Shurtliff, a wildlife biologist and strategic planner in WAI’s Idaho Falls office, recently co-facilitated a 3-day training workshop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, California. The San Diego Zoo has a conservation division staffed by researchers and practitioners who focus on conserving endangered animals across the globe. Quinn and two colleagues were invited by the director of the Zoo Conservation Division to train 18 participants on how to improve the way in which they practice conservation. Specifically, they trained them in the latest thinking in the field on how to know if they are doing the right things, if what they are doing is working, and if they are achieving their desired impacts.

Feedback from the workshop was very positive, and Quinn and his fellow trainers have plans to expand training opportunities across the country. These efforts have not gone unnoticed by the conservation community. Recently, Quinn was invited to help train other trainers in Oregon later this spring.