BFREE is proud to announce that Avian Technician, Liberato “Gato” Pop, started his international Bird Banding internship with Klamath Bird Observatory in Oregon, USA during early May 2013. With the support of BFREE staff members, Gato began working toward the internship in January and has navigated through the process of applying, interviewing, obtaining a 6-month travel Visa, and deciding to leave his home for half a year to pursue this goal!
Klamath Bird Observatory (KBO) Interns engage in a variety of bird monitoring and research methodologies (e.g., bird banding and nest searching) depending on annual project needs. Interns gain skills in bird identification by sight and sound, survey methodology, orienteering and general field biology skills, meticulous data collection, and data entry. Interns also contribute substantially to KBO’s research and monitoring efforts. Upon successful completion of the program, Gato will be eligible to pursue his bird banding certification by the North American Banding Council and additionally hopes to be certified as a banding trainer.
Experiences like this are ones that BFREE has worked hard to try to link Belizeans to. Gato lives in Bladen Village, a small community of approximately 300 people. His village is one of the six communities buffering Bladen Nature Reserve in which BFREE has focused outreach efforts over the past seven years. By offering educational programs in village schools and to community members and by training and employing locals to become parabiologists (and in this case, avian technicians), BFREE seeks to involve Belizean stake-holders in the pursuit of the organizational mission to conserve the biodiversity and cultural heritage of Belize.
At just 21 years old, Gato found BFREE five years ago when he was 16. His father, village leader of Bladen that year, saw BFREE employee William Garcia putting up posters advertising the opportunity to train and work as an avian technician. Gato eagerly applied and, a few weeks later, he officially joined BFREE’s avian research team. Since that time, Gato has become an integral part of the avian team and has shown a special affinity for his work with Belize’s wild Harpy eagles.
Gato is one of 13 individuals who have completed avian technician training with BFREE and is one of three who are currently employed by the non-profit. Avian Program Coordinator, William Garcia, has taken advantage of multiple opportunities to receive additional training abroad; he also participated in a KBO internship and has worked with Copperhead Environmental Consulting, Inc. in Kentucky, USA each summer for the past three years. Newest avian team member, Marlyn Cruz, will begin her first international internship with Copperhead Environmental Consulting this June.
BFREE would like to express sincere thanks to organizations like Klamath Bird Observatory and Copperhead Environmental Consulting, Inc. for providing once in a lifetime opportunities to motivated and talented individuals like Gato, William and Marlyn.