The Brandywine Zoo manages two in-situ conservation programs in Delaware. One monitoring endangered American kestrels where the apprentice will be responsible for monitoring nest boxes for American kestrels. The other is a passive wildlife monitoring project focusing on urban areas, scavengers, and carnivores, which falls under the program umbrella Urban Wild, where the apprentice will be responsible for deploying and maintaining camera traps and tagging wildlife photos. This position will also assist in monitoring a peregrine falcon nest box fledgling watch program, contribute to native plant sale efforts, and other additional projects may be added during the 2022 year, as time allows.
American Kestrel Project:
The American kestrel is North America’s smallest falcon species. Since the 1960s, kestrels have seen a decline of 88% in their population and in 2013 they were listed as Endangered in Delaware. More research is necessary to determine the cause of decline in this small, insect-eating bird, but evidence suggests that pesticide accumulation, increased predation by more urban-adaptable raptors, and habitat loss may be primary factors.
The Brandywine Zoo and Delaware Fish and Wildlife coordinate the Delaware kestrel Partnership, an American kestrel nest box monitoring program that works with various nonprofit and partners to study kestrels in the state. Research apprentices will assist the Conservation Research Technician with the maintenance and monitoring of kestrel nest boxes across the state of Delaware, and logging data. The goals of the research currently is to identify where kestrels are nesting, their presence and absence, the impact of habitat and invasive species pressures, and other baseline information for future research. Active kestrel nests with chicks will be banded, as well as banding of adults on nests.
Urban Wildlife Monitoring:
Cities provide a unique opportunity for science. They are the fastest growing ecosystems on the planet and the high human population provides an untapped and valuable opportunity to engage the public in the process of ecological research and connect people to nature. Most Delawareans are unaware of the diversity of wildlife that call this state home, particularly in the highly urbanized area where this project takes place. Awareness of the species revealed in these studies may bring a predictable mix of emotions from the public, from fear and concern to curiosity and wonder.
Understanding the local wildlife sharing our urban areas will allow us to mitigate human-wildlife interactions, make recommendations to urban planners and land managers for least-impactful human activities for sensitive species, and contribute to a variety of additional research or plans that will benefit the local population as well as wildlife. The data collected in this project are ultimately helping us understand wildlife behavior, the impacts of human development and activity has on the wildlife we share our cities with, as well as how that wildlife adapts to life with us.
Data from the main camera trapping project is shared with the Urban Wildlife Information Network, a collaborative research group of more than 35 cities across North America, coordinated by Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute. Additional projects are conducted year-round or at specific seasons, such as participation with Wildlife Insight’s project Snapshot USA.
The Brandywine Zoo has been conducting an urban wildlife monitoring project in Delaware since Fall 2017. This project uses passive monitoring techniques to survey wildlife populations across New Castle County, Delaware. Our project is primarily a camera trapping project, but also focuses on detecting carnivores (coyotes), carnivore guilds, scavenging guilds, as well as small mammal ecology and may include other technologies, such as acoustic monitoring devices. The apprentice will be responsible for maintaining equipment and deploying and collecting remote sensing devices used for the studies as well as tagging the thousands wildlife photos that are collected through these projects.
Since the early 1990s, downtown Wilmington Delaware has had a pair of nesting peregrine falcons. In cooperation with Delaware Ornithological Society, we help coordinate volunteers for a 10-14 day window each spring to monitor fledgling falcons and assist with recovering any injured or grounded fledglings. The apprentice may be asked to fill in monitoring shifts for this fledge watch, involving watching the box and reporting any fledges.
Other Projects: Other projects may be started in 2022.
Research and methodology.
Bird of prey and terrestrial mammal identification.
American kestrel natural history knowledge.
Carnivore and scavenger ecology and natural history, trophic dynamics.
GPS applications; use of appropriate equipment including but not limited to GPS, motion-sensored cameras, GoPro cameras, etc.
Program uses: GIS, Tableau, Bandit, Google Earth.
Grant writing opportunities.
Educational programming experience (teaching and writing); and data recording, analysis, and presentation.
Maintenance of currently installed kestrel boxes in various state parks in DE (currently 60+ installed around the state, with more added each season).
Site location identification and installation of new kestrel boxes, including digging holes for nest box posts.
Deployment of cameras and other monitoring equipment, site identification.
Installing wildlife cameras, analyzing camera trap photographs, and tagging data after deployments using databases.
Conducting other passive monitoring surveys, such as small mammal footprint track tube surveys, coyote calling audio surveys, transects, and data input.
Help with forming partnerships with DE-based governmental bodies and nonprofits.
Regular, weekly check-ups on kestrel boxes during nesting season (Feb -July). European starling abatement.
Banding activities for adult kestrels and kestrel nests, with some opportunities for banding with other raptors or raptor researchers.
Logging data, data analysis, uploading data to, and communicating with program partners including American kestrel Partnership, Urban Wildlife Information Network, Wildlife Insights.
Work within program objectives for AZA North American Songbird and North American Monarch SAFE programs.
Assisting with reports on monitoring programs.
Assisting with the delivery of conservation programming to groups and the public.
REQUIRED SKILLS At least 18 years old. Must have a valid driver’s license and provide own transportation to field sites. Provide proof of a negative TB Test within the last 12 months before the start date. The position is physically demanding at times, requiring outdoor work in a variety of temperatures and sometimes challenging conditions. Candidates must be able to carry and climb a 12 foot ladder. Good physical condition: able to stand/walk for extended periods of time, kneel, crouch, and able to work in all weather conditions. Must be able to lift at least 50 lbs. Able to use various power tools and equipment. Must be fluent in the English language (verbal and written communication). Overall GPA must be 2.5 or higher. Good organizational skills. Able and willing to read and follow verbal and written work instructions and work independently. Willing to assist with administrative, customer relations, and housekeeping tasks. Able to commit to upholding all Zoo safety and personnel policies, and support the overall mission. Able to professionally represent the Brandywine Zoo in all interactions with visitors, staff, and other members of the community. Complete a project of the intern’s own design approved by zoo staff, during the internship period.