Coming into this internship, some of us did not have a very wide breadth of knowledge when it came to ducks and the prairie pothole region. This internship has taught us more than we could have imagined about the biology behind this research project. After finishing this internship, we now know how to properly identify ducks (and many other upland nesting birds) after only getting a quick glance. Second, we’ve learned that ducks do not have a good sense of smell, so touching their eggs won’t directly cause them to abandon their nests. Third, we have learned that each duck species have an egg that is unique to them and that their eggs can be used as another identifying source. Looking at the big picture, we now realize how much time and effort it takes these upland nesting birds to produce a single successful hatch. This has shown us how delicate these ecosystems really are, which is one of the most important things we have learned.
Working in the field together has taught us the another important lesson. That being communication is key when working in a group. If you aren’t communicating throughout the work, then something is going to go wrong. Chain dragging was the ultimate team-working exercise and was something we had to learn to do successfully every single day, therefore, it came with both frustrations and triumphs. Learning how to work with each other was a critical aspect in making our field days safer and smoother. This internship has taught us the importance of leadership and that it doesn’t necessarily take a head strong, outspoken personality to make a good leader. All they need to be is knowledgeable and passionate in what they are doing and have a drive to teach that to others. They also need to have patience, critical thinking, and perseverance in order to effectively share the passion they have.
This whole experience was amazing to have as an undergraduate and we are all grateful for the chance to participate in this research. We have had the opportunity to do work in our field, network with others in our field, and learn about how to work as a team. Huge thanks to Ducks Unlimited, Susan Felege, and other contributors for making this possible!