Colorado Roadtrip

Faith flew all the way here to visit the southwest! We had been talking about a trip to Colorado for some time now, and we finally made it happen! The two of us took one week: first in New Mexico visiting Ladder Ranch and Santa Fe, then we headed to Colorado in Crested Butte and Denver, with a quick stop in Breckenridge! Check out Faith’s awesome blog, Navigation By Faith 🙂

Ladder Ranch!

Faith water quality

Faith taking water quality measurements at Johnson pond

We spent one day on the ranch where Faith assisted me with VES (visual encounter surveys) at the frog ponds, and got to see the stunning desert environment and wildlife. That evening, she tasted green chili elk burgers for the first time! (A quintessential New Mexican meal).

We headed north to Santa Fe for a day, as a halfway point between Ladder and our stops in Colorado. We walked around town, poking in shops and bookstores, AND made the necessary visit to the highly recommended Meow Wolf – a warehouse bursting with immersive art: an artist-created dreamworld with a mysterious backstory… I don’t know how else to describe it, but if you are in the area, it is essential you stop here ($20 per person). Give yourself a few hours too; we spent over 3 hours wandering through the house, room after room, space after space, without realizing how much time had passed.


meowwolf stage

The next morning we headed to Aspen Vista to hike through the beautiful aspen trees!

We heard that the best time to visit CO, especially Crested Butte, was just at the turn of fall – and we were not disappointed! What is usually a bustling ski town in the winter was a calm, crisp late fall destination; not too many people, beautiful foliage, and the perfect weather, with just a bite of winter cold that encourages hot apple cider and a crackling fire place. We went in the first week of October, and some of the aspen trees were already looking quite bare, so we recommend a mid-September trip if you want to hike or bike around the changing leaves! We stayed at the wonderful and highly recommended International Lodge & Hostel in Crested Butte. It was just two blocks walking distance from the main area on Elk Street. That first week of October seemed to be the close of many shops until the busy winter ski season started up again. We caught the last Sunday market on Elk Street, and we saw many signs for stores and restaurants that were closing that weekend until the winter season. So, keep this in mind if you plan on visiting!

We picked a hiking trail, rather at random, because they all looked beautiful. But the one we chose turned out not to be a hike at all, but the scenery was stunning!! We went to Emerald Lake, which was a drive into the mountains nearby, then a short walk because my car was not 4WD and could not go any further. Here is the list of hikes we chose from.

Emerald Lake, Crested Butte

We also did a short drive on the Scenic Byway and stopped at these golden aspen trees. I couldn’t help but feel like we were in a wonderland.

On our stops on a scenic drive in Crested Butte

I officially tried mountain biking for the first time, a long time love of Faith’s . We rented bikes at Big Al’s for about $24-32 depending on the bike. Helmets included, we opted for a half day (4 hours) of riding. The staff were kind, relaxed, and super helpful. I certainly recommend this shop. We chose the Lower Loop trail for it’s length and ease (green), since it was my first time riding on rocky trails and narrow paths. It also had the option of returning on a slightly harder route (blue), if we felt up to it.

Mountain biking on the Lower Loop trail, Crested Butte

I really did enjoy mountain biking, as frustrated as a may have looked at the end. It was a great way to get outside, feel the crisp fresh air, and see the surrounding mountains, all while getting exercise and working up a well deserved sweat. (I have not exercised in a while, so it was a welcome challenge). We chose to take the blue trail back, and my frustration was most likely fueled by my tiredness. Faith’s most useful advice to me was to look where you want to go, not what you want to avoid – aka, don’t look at that rock you don’t want to hit: look at the narrow gap between the edge of the path and the side of the rock. Also, try not to hit trees with your handle bars. Trees are stronger. You will fall.

When we arrived in Denver late at night, it was raining an icy rain as we rushed into Hostel Fish, our bed for the next two nights. I highly recommend this hostel. It was inexpensive, clean, colorful, and relaxed. There are shared bathrooms and a kitchen area that hosts a bar in the evenings. The next day was snowy and cold. We didn’t have much of a plan for Denver, but we wandered around the windy streets, rushing from bookstore, to restaurant, to shop to thaw our faces. The Tattered Cover was an amazing bookstore we easily could’ve spent all day in. Honestly, we did feel a little cooped up after spending this past week outdoors in sunny, agreeable weather.


Denver was very very cold. And snowy and windy.

Then the day finally came, when Faith made her way to the Denver airport, and I packed up the car to drive back to New Mexico. We spent the week reminiscing, exploring, hiking, and biking, and eating a lot of peanut butter, bread, and apples out of my car to save money. Faith and I have known each other since I moved to Connecticut in middle school, but this is the first time we’ve traveled together. It is such a comfort to be able to talk to someone you’ve known for nearly 15 years. Especially when I move around so much, everyone I’m surrounded by knows a rather shallow slice of my life – and I know so little of theirs. Faith and I share a birthday, a love of the outdoors and independent bookstores, the need to fill journal after journal, and the agreement that it’s okay if our entire vacation is spent low-key house hunting… We will turn 25 in eleven days, on opposite sides of the country. So, cheers twin! To many more adventures and almost 25 years of existence! Xoxo,



You’re looking at the newest board member of the Fishing Cat Conservancy!

As promised from my last post, I am excited to announce that I am now the new Executive Assistant and Field Researcher of the Fishing Cat Conservancy!

This is part-time work that I can do remotely as I continue with my seasonal technician jobs, wherever they may take me. I am responsible for managing and organizing the Conservancy’s online accounts, Google drives, and emails, as well as working with the other board members with newsletters, articles, outreach, and fundraising. And this winter, all board members turn into Field Researchers as we all travel to southeastern India to get on the ground and work with the local researchers with the cats! We will camera trap, id with tracks and scat, interview locals for sighting info, and train and educate the people in the area.





Fishing cats live in marshy swampland, and coastal mangrove areas of south and southeast Asia. Their diet consists mainly of, you guessed it, fish. But they also eat birds, insects, small mammals, and – possibly small livestock, but nothing has been proved for sure. They are threatened mainly because their habitat is disappearing – they live in fragmented “islands” of vegetation competing for resources from other fishing cats AND humans. Thought to be primarily nocturnal, these cats live solitary lives, unless they are a female with young. In Bengali and Thai, the name for this cat literally translates to “fish tiger.”


Another major project we plan to take on will be encouraging women to get involved with the local fishing cat projects – the India field team right now is small, but still composed only of men. Safety and getting parents’ approval will be difficult, especially for young women/students, but we are hoping to get more women permanently involved, and serve as a role model for exponential growth!


[All photos from the Fishing Cat Conservancy website]

The Conservancy has already done some groundbreaking work in the three years the NGO has been in existence – less than 15 peer reviewed papers have been published about the fishing cat. And we are doing work to change this and add to the vast felid pool of knowledge. Small cats are often neglected when calling for conservation support – big cats are usually the focus. Big cats are easily recognizable to the population and are charismatic megafauna seen in many NGO websites and logos. I have fallen prey to this too! But small cats are rapidly disappearing right beneath our noses, and I hope to change this – with field research and education!! So help me spread the word!!


I don’t even know who reads this blog, but if you made it all the way down here, please please do me a favor and subscribe to FCC, and like our facebook page. I will be starting a newsletter soon, so you’ll be hearing from me eventually! Educate yourself about our little fishing cats – thank you!


The 24th Annual Wildlife Society Conference | Albuquerque, NM


As circumstance would hold, the 24th annual Wildlife Society Conference was held in Albuquerque, NM this year! Albuquerque was actually the first location of the distinguished conference in 1994, and 23 years later, they have returned. I was lucky enough to attend this conference, a mere 3 hour’s drive from the ranch.

The 5-day event was held at the Albuquerque Convention Center from Sept. 23-Sept. 27, 2017. Hosting over 2000 attendees, possibly a record breaking number in the conference’s history, participants included wildlife professionals from NGOs, private, state, and federal organizations, students, recent graduates/young professionals, university faculty, wildlife artists, and more. Wildlifers all mingled over fascinating lectures, research poster presentations, information booths, photography contests, keynote speaker sessions, social networking events, and even a competitive student Quiz Bowl going into the late hours of the night.

Kristina Harkins photo, best in show

Best in Show photography contest winner, Kristina Harkins

Dr. Winifred Kessler was awarded the prestigious Aldo Leopold Memorial Award at the conference this year. “Wini,” as she is fondly known, is only the second woman to receive this annual award in its 67-year history, originating in 1950! This is The Wildlife Society’s highest honor, and Dr. Kessler was recognized for the magnitude of her accomplishments as a wildlife biologist, in addition to her former presidentship to the Society, as well as her emphasis of increasing diversity in the field. To read more about her impressive history and service to The Wildlife Society and to the wildlife field itself, read here.

WiniKessler, Aldo Leopold memorial awardee

Dr. Wini Kessler, Aldo Leopold Memorial Awardee. [Photo from The Wildlife Society]

With nearly 1000 educational and training opportunities, a handful of keynote speakers, over 40 networking events, and even field trips to nearby nature preserves, to say the schedule was packed would be an understatement. I was personally interested in the sessions involving carnivores, predators, felids, and canids – but with so many overlapping presentations, I had to choose carefully which to attend! Each lecture was kept to a neat 20 minutes, and I found myself running (literally) from room to room trying to absorb as much information as I could.

I learned about the altered predation patterns of pumas where wolves were introduced in northeastern Oregon; and how to use sparse fosa data to estimate population density in Madagascar (a fosa is a type of small wildcat, did you know that? I hadn’t known about it until now!). I attended a lecture on genetic distribution of certain species that cross the U.S.-Mexico border and how completion of the fence would disrupt their movement and genetic diversity. I even heard from social media-ist Dr. David Steen on how to disseminate scientific information outside of the scientific ‘bubble’ (aka, to non-scientists). He is the creator of the hashtag #actuallivingscientist, trying to change the fact that most people cannot name a modern living scientist. This hashtag encouraged scientists to introduce themselves to their social media followers so people would be exposed to living scientists and their work!


Fosa (pronounced foo-sah), a small wildcat, closely related to a mongoose, endemic to Madagascar

I also went to two lectures by Ashwin Naidu, the co-founder and president of the NGO, the Fishing Cat Conservancy. The fishing cat, I learned, is a small nocturnal wildcat that lives in coastal mangrove areas with a rapidly declining population. (See IUCN Red List information here.) This is mostly due to fragmentation and destruction of its valuable mangrove habitat, as well as simply the lack of knowledge about this felid that many people have not heard about, including myself. Until now.


The fishing cat, endemic to south and southeast asia, is about the size of a bobcat [Photo by Frank Hood]

After hearing about Ashwin’s NGO, only 3 years old, I spoke to him after both of his lectures, expressing my interest in getting involved with his organization that has already done some amazing work in coastal south India and Sri Lanka, and is looking to find other populations in northeastern India, southeast Asia, and Indonesia. The Fishing Cat Conservancy team focuses on community-based conservation methods that involve and train local community members, fishers, students, and more, to educate their peers, and collect data about the fishing cat in their own backyard. The assessments are conducted mainly with camera trapping and tracking via prints identified in the muddy landscape of mangrove forests, as well as scat. Community member sightings are also valuable information.

So, after exchanging some ideas, I am proud to say that I have an announcement to make about the Fishing Cat Conservancy and myself…but you’ll have to stayed tuned for my next post to see what it is!! {Go check out their website while you wait!}






Through the woods we ran, deep into the mountain sound

-Of Monsters and Men, Mountain Sound

In less than two months, I turn 25. This age is a landmark that means more to me than any other year thus far. Even turning 21. Does 25 mean adulthood?

I know I look young, and yes I will certainly appreciate it in 20 years – however, my appearance of youth is frustrating in this field. I’m sure others in different disciplines can also put their two cents in, but I am often mistaken for a high schooler, or a college student – which honestly isn’t far off. Yet, when people ask me if I’m in school, I used to secretly relish in the surprised expressions I received when I said I graduated college over three years ago. Now, it is becoming slightly irritating.

This impression could also be fed by the position I hold at work: a “summer technician.” The title implies a job of ephemeral nature, low or no pay, an element of “trainee”, and evidently, youth. I know most of the researchers or professionals I’ve met mean no harm; “are you in school?” is simply a conversation starter. But I feel the insatiable need to prove my worth in age, knowledge, creativity, and experience. I am constantly reminded that I don’t have a science degree, though most of that prodding is my own little voice inside. Still, I puff my chest up, trying to be taken a little bit more seriously.

|25| I sense that the number is finally catching up to the age I feel. And this number affects the way people perceive me. You can say that it doesn’t matter what people think of you, etc. etc., but you know what, it does matter – the manner in which others think they understand about you effectively shapes the way they treat you. 25 is one step closer to… many things. Maybe I’m just not sure about what all of those things are yet. I will always be one to celebrate another year of life. I don’t foresee lamenting a rising number, as years inevitably increase, and we inevitably change.


Desert Life

The desert is everything I didn’t expect it to be. In a place I thought would be devoid of such vibrant life – I see wild bison, elk, deer, frogs, lizards, snakes, kangaroo rats, black bears, prairie dogs, coyotes, foxes everywhere I go. The beauty of the landscape is absolutely indescribable, especially as the sun rises. And I certainly do not miss the humidity of the east coast or the Philippines.


Seco Canyon, Ladder Ranch


A lone coyote pup by one of the frog tanks


Henry the bison. He hangs out by our houses


Diamondback rattlesnake that lives by one of the frog ponds


Rattlesnake by the office – a little too close for comfort. It was transported elsewhere.

I am at the halfway point in my job here on Ladder Ranch in Caballo, New Mexico – three months in, and three months to go. At the moment, I’m feeling overwhelmed with the prospects of the future, because naturally, everything is now happen at once. Nonetheless, after a phone call with my twin muse, I move forward. Starting with this blog post, my public journal.


What is it that I do here out in the desert? A week for me looks like this: 2-3 days are conducting surveys in the field, and 2-3 days are spent cleaning and working in the ranarium (frog breeding facility). Every few weeks or so, a visitor or researcher joins my boss Cassidi and I, and we assist them with their work, or tour them around the ranch.

Ladder Ranch has the highest concentration of wild Chiricahua Leopard Frogs in the world. These particular frogs are listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List. The ranch has 18 sites where I survey the wild frogs – they live in steel-rimmed tanks and man-made earthen ponds fed by creek water pumped in by solar panels. My field surveys include weekly counts of egg masses, and monthly Visual Encounter Surveys (VES). For VES, I count frog populations at each wild site, and take water quality measurements.

We’ve also assisted with two captures by graduate student Tricia – she trapped a mountain lion and black bear (via leg snare), to collect data, tag and release!

We are located in rural southwestern New Mexico. I live with the Bolson tortoise technician, Vincent, and our house does not have air conditioning or wifi. And the entire ranch does not have cell service. I am a 40-minute drive (going 80mph on the highway, mind you) to the nearest town and only grocery store (Walmart). We spend our after-work hours and weekends 1) watching a lot of movies 2) finding good internet in town 3) cooking 4) finding little adventures floating down the Rio Grande or camping near national monuments.


This is Vincent and a tortoise

This is the point in time when seasonal technicians start looking for their next job, step, purpose. Nearing the end of one job always means scrambling for the next. I will be studying for the GRE (which I am now officially saying publically, so I have to do it), looking towards grad schools and grants, and figuring out where I am heading in life! It’s exciting to look forward and see something I care about becoming clearer and clearer.

And, as states this journal that I did not buy (alas), I must find my porpoise.

Find your porpoise



Road Trip: Connecticut to New Mexico


2,900 miles

Less than a month ago, I had no idea that I’d be driving alone almost coast to coast- and I that I’d have the most amazing time. Here is my trip in numbers:

  • In 2 weeks,
  • I drove over 2,900 miles,
  • In 57 hours,
  • Crossing 15 states,
  • Making 13 stops at the homes of friends and family, and new friends and new family,
  • Attended a beautiful wedding,
  • Met family members I didn’t know I had,
  • And started a new job!

I got to see friends and professors from F&M College, coworkers from the Belize Jaguar Project, friends I studied abroad in India with over 4 years ago, friends of friends from Peace Corps, immediate family, as well as extended family I’d never met before, and of course, new friends made along the way. All my worlds collided in this venture that took me to so many places I’ve never been.


I started in Connecticut: then stopped in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, and finally New Mexico!

Here’s my car all packed and ready to go!


Visiting Karen (India abroad), Parsa (F&M) and the National Geographic Museum, DC

Visiting Virginia Tech: Dr. Marcella Kelly, Bethany (Jaguar Project), and Chris (VT)

Ishmael (F&M) and Chance the pup in Georgia

Birmingham, AL Botanical Gardens, visiting Jessica (Peace Corps friend of a friend)

Darielle (F&M) and Jeff’s wedding in Baton Rogue, LA!

Visiting Devin and Sam (India abroad) in New Orleans!

Visiting family and friends in Texas!


and finally…. NEW MEXICO!

I arrived in New Mexico on Saturday, and today was my first day of work! I work for Cassidi on the Chiricahua (Cheer-i-kawa) leopard frog research on the Ted Turner Ladder Ranch in Caballo. There are many conservation projects going on simultaneously on this massive ranch! I live with Vincent, the technician for the tortoise research here. There are scientists studying wolves, quails, black bears, mountain lions, and more! We all help each other out, so I will get to get involved a little with each project.

Today my boss Cassidi, her crazy work-pup-in-training Luna, and I went out to visit the frog ponds sites to take water quality measurements and do population estimates for the frogs, tadpoles, and egg masses. We will do this at all 18 sites once a month. I drive the UTV, which is like a mountain golf cart with big wheels. Its pretty great. More on the job later, the weather and landscape here is breathtaking!!



The Next Adventure Awaits…

After Belize, I was hired for a job in New Mexico!

I will be heading to New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment, as a Wildlife Technician for the next 6 months. I will be working for the Turner Endangered Species Fund, assisting a biologist with her research on the Chiricahua Leopard Frog. This species is listed as threatened by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Working with endangered species, big and small, furry or slimy, I take my next step into the wildlife field. I’m excited to live and work in a new environment in the stunning New Mexico!




The symbol in the middle of the New Mexican flag is the ancient sacred sun of the Native American Zia tribe. Four is a sacred number for the Zia, representing the four directions, four seasons, four times of day (morning, noon, evening, night), and four stages/cycles of life (childhood, youth, adulthood, old age).

“Zia’s belief that with life comes four sacred obligations: one must develop a strong body, a clear mind, a pure spirit, and a devotion to the welfare of others.” -State Symbols USA


Cheers to new adventures,