Research working for WSU student

Hands-on experience. In almost any career, having that line on a resume is a huge benefit. When that career is wildlife ecology, just what you get your hands on can be pretty interesting.

Two people kneel on the ground. The woman is holding a bear paw that is sticking out of a portable cage.
Taylor Schaeffer and Tony Carnahan  work with the bears at the WSU Bear Center.

Take Taylor Schaeffer, a senior at WSU who majoring in wildlife ecology and a volunteer at the WSU Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center.

“This summer, I did a lot of behavioral scoring, initializing collars, learning how to balance a centrifuge,” Schaeffer said. “On top of working with the bears to set up enrichment items and clean up.”

Those were all part of a research project that took up most of this summer at the Bear Center. Schaeffer worked with graduate student Tony Carnahan, who is studying how bears use energy.

So she watched a lot of video of the bears to mark down what behaviors they exhibited, like when they ate or how often they walked around. And since the bears in the study have energy-monitoring collars, she had to make sure they were collecting data correctly.

“It was so much fun, and I learned a lot,” said the Missoula, Montana native. “I want to go to graduate school and do research, so this was fantastic training for that.”

She was also involved on research projects that studied bears sense of smell, and last year’s work on the treadmill.

“Wildlife ecology is really competitive,” Schaeffer said. “But WSU has so many opportunities for students to be involved in research. I think that will really help me as I look around for graduate programs.”

She said she’s also proud of the efforts taken by staff and other volunteers at the center to take care of the bears.

“They’re so well taken care of,” Shaeffer said. “And the research that we’ve done, and the things we’ve learned from these bears, is something that wouldn’t have been possible without this center. They really are helping all the bears in the wild.”