This is the first time I’ve gotten to participate in an extensive fieldwork experience; it’s been all I’ve expected… and so much more! Having spent most of my life in the drastically different environment of Southern California, the scenery around this area has absolutely surpassed my expectations. I’m used to dry and brown summers, so I can’t stop marveling at just how lush and green the woods are, and how so many sites have rivers and creeks running in between the towering trees. If you saw my recent camera roll, you’d only be able to find a massive abundance of tree pictures. I always feel like I’m in the scene of some sort of movie.

It’s been such a varying journey — something that’s true both for the scenery that I’ve encountered and the work that I get to do! Every day is different, and every site is different. Walking through the deep woods and collecting bear hair… it’s inevitable that we encounter a huge variety of different situations: fallen lure that we will rethrow, sites with upwards of 40 samples (which can take over an hour!), treks up hills that feel like cliffs to my weak calves… and I could go on. But it adds such excitement to my days, and I rarely feel like I’m working at a “real job.” Most of all, it’s incredible that we can make important conclusions about bear populations with a sampling method that doesn’t impair their normal behavior. I’m super excited to continue working with this project, and I can’t wait to continue sharing our journey with you all!

– Elizabeth Zhang