09 July 2021

Endangered Species Experience- Riparian Brush Rabbit

Written by: Jessica Parrish

I am a 33-year-old Natural Resources major at Oregon State University, set to graduate in May of 2023. My studies focus in fish and wildlife conservation and my end goal is to become a wildlife biologist in a National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). I am a June cohort U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) DFP, working via telework from my home in Louisville, KY for the San Luis NWR Complex. My project is monitoring the abundance of the endangered riparian brush rabbit (RBR) (sylvilagus bachmani riparius) on the San Joaquin NWR. This species faces many threats such as an estimated 95% loss of riparian habitat (in California), small population size, competition from the desert cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii), predation, and, most recently, the outbreak of a second strain of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV-2). This pilot project is the first camera trap survey conducted on the RBR and has provided a robust dataset and, hopefully, a more accurate population abundance than has been estimated historically. Although it would be much more exciting to work on site and be more hands-on, I am gaining truly invaluable experience.

Some things I am tasked with during my internship are researching and describing lagomorph species of North America, assessing a pilot protocol for monitoring the elusive RBR; creating abundance maps on ArcGIS; analyzing data to provide an abundance and density estimate; and presenting my findings to FWS, my DFP cohort, and possibly the Lagomorph Specialist Group. Throughout this project, I am compiling a Final Report in collaboration with my three supervisors with which I meet daily. I enjoy these virtual meetings as they make me feel like an integral part of the RBR team and not just an intern. My supervisors are excellent communicators and make sure I know exactly what needs to be accomplished and how to do so. The only thing I struggle with is feeling distant from my team as a telework fellow and learning things that are more complex like creating maps.

I feel very lucky to be studying my passion, endangered species, and I know this experience will elevate my professional conservation development in ways no other opportunity could. I can tell from video meetings with FWS leaders that the Service is dedicated to their mission and I would be lucky to work with them in the years to come.

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP

Location: San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex

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