Introducing Birders' Exchange's New Intern
by Nate Swick
Of all the projects we work on here at the ABA, the one that we're arguably most proud to be involved with is Birders' Exchange. BEX is a simple idea; birders in North America pass on their used optics or field guides or electronics to conservationists and researchers working in their home countries in Latin America and the Caribbean on bird-related projects. That equipment is ferried to the neotropics by birders in the US and Canada traveling abroad. You can find many of those grateful recipients at the BEX home page, but the project itself is run ably by Betty Peterson, who has some equally exciting news.
And with that, I turn the floor over to Betty - Nate
Growing up in Belize City on the Caribbean coast of Central America, Gail McNab and her siblings had few wild places to explore. The edge of the city next to a cemetery offered some biodiversity, though—and just beyond the cemetery lay miles of trees where they spent many happy hours investigating the forest.
And so began Gail’s passion for nature and birds—a passion which has led her to become this year’s international ambassador for conservation and education under the ABA Birders’ Exchange/Massachusetts Audubon Society International Intern Program.
Outgoing, friendly, and hard working, Gail is in Massachusetts until the end of September, where she is enjoying training, including seven-days-a-week courses that involve long hours of study, field trips, speaking to local students and the public, earning a certificate in bird ecology, and more.
In her second year of college, she took a course in environmental studies that changed her career focus and her life. She then applied to, and was accepted at, the University of Belize, where she studied for four more years, majoring in natural resource management. All of her studies were focused on nature, and how to manage and protect the environment as a whole.
During her time at the University of Belize, Gail took an introductory course in mist netting and bird banding that sparked her strong interest in birds. All of the students were new to birds, and by the end of the course everyone became interested in migration and habitat conservation, but Gail was smitten. She marvelled at the freedom of birds and the distance they travel. As she held a White-collared Seedeater for the first time, thoughts raced through her mind … how magnificent birds are, their color, function, beauty, inspiration, what they offer to the world. Without birds, would airplanes exist? Many more thoughts would follow.
Her favorite bird? That’s easy.
“The coolest bird I have ever seen,” she says excitedly, “is the male Royal Flycatcher!”
This is the eighth year of the collaborative International Intern Program between the ABA, Birders’ Exchange, and Massachusetts Audubon Society. The goal of the program is to develop natural history and conservation ambassadors, and support ecotourism and conservation in the interns’ home countries.
Interns participating in this program spend four weeks studying and enhancing their leadership skills through participation in birding programs and field trips, and return home with valuable skills that enhance their careers, their conservation projects, and their lives.
For more information about the International Intern Program, contact Birders’ Exchange Program Director Betty Petersen, firstname.lastname@example.org.