Biologists Fall In Love With Highland County During Bird Survey

Monterey, Va – Four young biologists recently spent 2 months in Highland county as part of a Golden Wing Warbler survey. This survey is being sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Dr. Leslie Bullock of VCU is heading up the project.

Blue Grass resident and local bird expert Patti Reum was the leader of the group surveying Highland and Bath counties. The four budding naturalists came from far and wide to be part of this project. Rachel Wurth, from Lima, Ohio just graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in biology.

She says she’s impressed by the friendliness of the people in the area. A ornithology class at Ohio State University originally sparked her interest in birding. She says it can be a little daunting at first, especially learning how to identify various species, but that shouldn’t stop you.

“It’s something that everyone can get into” says Wurth. “It doesn’t matter, you don’t have to have a science background, you can just love birds you can still go out there and enjoy looking at them and learning about them.”

Rachel is going to optometry school in Boston this Fall, but hopes that she can continue birding and doing conservation work.

Nicole Vella-Gelder just completed her Bachelor’s degree in ecology from the University of Guelph in Ontario Canada. She says this job was her first as an ecologist and exactly what she was looking for. Next for her is a job as a Naturalist with the Ontario government on Lake Superior. She’s planning a career in conservation biology.

Alexander Dalton is from Hanover County and is the only Virginia native on the crew. He just completed his Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Environmental Studies at Longwood University.

Although he’s driven through the area on his way to West Virginia, this is the first time he’s been able to stop and take in the sights of Highland County. Alexander was very impressed by the hospitality of the many private landowners who allowed the team to survey over 50 sites in Highland and Bath counties during the survey. He plans to continue his studies in a graduate program at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Dominic Cormier, from Halifax, Nova Scotia was the most experienced birder on the team. An amateur bird-watcher since adolescence, his career goal is to be a conservation biologist. He says he didn’t know much about Highland before the study – just that it was in the mountains. He says he had a wonderful time being part of it.

Highland county has undoubtedly made a lasting impression on these four young biologists at this early stage of their careers. It is likely they will take many fond memories with them as they go off to pursue studies and careers across North America.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

Current Weather