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TPWD News,, 512-389-8030

Aug. 1, 2011

Chasing after birds and mapping trails: stories of summer interns

Banding ducks off the side of a speeding airboat requires coordination and the wherewithal to lie on the front of the boat and basically hug a duck out of the water as you zoom by. If the duck makes a run for a tight spot, you’d better be ready to jump out of the boat and chase it down on foot.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department interns Katie Murphy and Paul Kelly III were up for this challenge out in the marshes of J.D. Murphree WMA near Port Arthur this summer. Kelly is a senior at Texas A&M from Plantation, Fla. A member of the Corps of Cadets, Kelly will be the commanding officer of Parson’s Mounted Calvary in the fall.

Murphy is a junior at Tarleton State majoring in wildlife management. During the school year she works with the Wildlife Society on conservation projects throughout the state. She chose to apply for the TPWD internship program at J.D. Murphree because of her interest in wetland restoration and conservation.

The two interns worked day and night catching and banding brooding or molting water fowl along with mourning doves. The bands, attached to the birds’ legs, provide researchers information on collection location and track bird numbers and flight patterns in the area.

“Both interns have aided staff in the mottled duck banding efforts,” said Natural Resource Specialist Andrew Peters. “The banding efforts have included long nights in the marsh spot-lighting mottled ducks in an airboat and early mornings checking baited swim-in traps. The interns have also taken the lead on banding several mourning doves using baited funnel traps and are likely to reach the Jefferson county quote for banded mourning doves soon.”

West of J.D. Murphree around Bastrop stands a moderate patch of trees that seems to have wandered away from the East Coast. The Lost Pines Complex of Bastrop and Buescher State Parks boast tall, lovely conifers aberrantly found among the scrubby brush of Central Texas and also one motivated summer intern. Melanie Nash-Loop, a master’s student in natural resource development at Texas A&M, spent her summer at these two parks creating a GPS database, an employee interpretive handbook for both parks and working on educational programs for a local school summer program.

“One of her programs focused on the life of bees, and one lucky student in each group ‘dressed up’ like a bee, with winds, antenna, proboscis and even a stinger,” said Katie Raney, an interpreter for both parks. “Even though temperatures are high this summer, Melanie hiked all of the trails at both Bastrop and Buescher State Parks and completed a GPS database of the Buescher trail markers.”

The Bulverde native also created an interpretive handbook for the complex.

“I had a lot of creative control of the handbook which turned out to be nearly 200 pages,” said Nash-Loop. “It was quite a task but definitely rewarding.”

Visitors to the park wishing to identify a plant, bird or other park dweller can flip through Nash-Loop’s handbook rather than going to a more cumbersome, often out-of-date guide book for the region.

Prior to her internship at the Lost Pines complex, Nash-Loop worked as a clerk at Guadalupe River State Park.

To apply for a state parks or other TPWD internship visit the Student Summer Internship Program informational site at business/jobs/Student summer_internship program/index.phtml. Applications for the summer 2012 program will be available in September/October.

For information on state park volunteering in your community, visit the volunteer opportunities page at:


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