Julia Mello holding an owl and documenting data with mentor
2.12.2019
By Roanoke College News

Student's internship leads to documentary appearance

Environmental studies major Julia Mello ’19 received hands-on field experience during a summer 2018 internship with the Global Owl Project, based in Hermiston, Oregon.

Mello and Global Owl Project creator David Johnson were featured in an episode of the “Oregon Field Guide,” Oregon Public Broadcasting’s weekly television news magazine exploring ecological issues, natural wonders and outdoor recreation of the Northwest. The episode highlighted Global Owl Project’s work with the burrowing owls, the artificial burrows the organization has created for these owls, and their research.

Global Owl Project’s original purpose was to bring the local population of burrowing owls back to the area by constructing underground artificial owl burrows in the Umatilla Chemical Weapons Depot, a now-decommissioned, post-World War II, U.S. Army installation. The area serves as the perfect home for the birds; the once-abandoned plains have since been turned into their undisturbed paradise.

“Working the field provided me with hands-on opportunity in handling wild animals and data collection. I was encouraged to work with schoolchildren, the Umatilla tribes, and the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Environmental Studies major Julia Mello '19

Johnson quickly realized that the artificial burrows—made from plastic barrels, buckets and irrigation tubes—allowed he and Mello to learn more about the species’ mating data, migratory patterns, and more, from a closer range.

“Working the field provided me with hands-on opportunity in handling wild animals and data collection,” said Mello. “I was encouraged to work with schoolchildren, the Umatilla tribes, and the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Service. Following college, I would like to continue traveling and working with wildlife in field.”

Dr. Valerie Banschbach, environmental studies professor at Roanoke, said Mello has been actively pursuing opportunities to advance her knowledge of wildlife conservation and environmental issues around the world throughout her time at Roanoke College.

Mello “did a semester in the Yucatan studying conservation science and sustainable agriculture, traveled to Palau to study public health, worked in the environmental studies field courses to engage in conservation work in Virginia, and held a research position with the Global Owl Project,” Banschbach said. “I am very pleased to see what Julia has been able to accomplish as a Roanoke College student.”

Mello connected with Johnson by networking with another Roanoke student whose father is an ornithologist. She used the connection to reach Johnson and got the internship with the Global Owl Project. That helped to lead her to an upcoming internship with Panther Ridge, an exotic feline facility in Loxahatchee, Florida. There she will work with abandoned and unwanted exotic felines.

Learn more by watching the Oregon Field Guide episode. Mello is featured from
08:04 to 09:15.

For more information on Panther Ridge, click here.

Photos from Global Owl Program Internship