My internship was wonderful and I got to experience real field research in a very interesting environment. I was the field assistant to a PhD student working on an animal behavioral study with yellow-bellied marmots in the White Mountains of California. We worked up at 12,500 ft for 2.5 months at a research station on a mountain. We were 2.5 hours away from any real city or hospital. But it was the most amazing time I've ever had and was truly spectacular. Every morning (7 days a week) we would wake up between 4:30-5AM and hike out to a point and observe the behaviors of these marmots for at least an hour. I really liked getting to watch them and what they would do. We also would trap the marmots to take data on the individuals. We would weigh them, tag them if they had not been tagged, measure their left hind foot, measure their Anal-Genital (AG) distance for sexing, take fecal samples for parasite analysis, hair samples for DNA genetics, and we would make them with a non-toxic dye so when observing we would know which marmots is performing which behaviors. (Marmots shed at least twice a season though, so the dye was never permanent). The marmots did not seem to mind any of this and some would go in the traps multiple times a day. I felt that this experience was very beneficial for me because it showed me what I would be interested in doing once I graduate. I would love to work with animals and be in an environment where I can observe them in their natural environment. It was a great learning
My host organization was really the UC-reserve system and their research centers. Thea was the person I worked with and she was absolutely wonderful. She is getting her PhD at UCLA and so through UCLA we stayed at WMRS, (White Mountain research Station). The station was suburb. Considering we were up at 12,500ft I was quite impressed with the facilities that were available. There was running water, heat, electricity and a cook! (The cook also took care of some of the other animals that were up there for research purposes).