Wild for wildlife

U.S. Forest Service wildlife technician Brianna Gibson started her new job at the Marlinton Ranger Station in September. Before coming to Pocahontas County, Gibson served with the Peace Corps for three years in Tanzania. Photo courtesy of Brianna Gibson

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

When Brianna Gibson began her college career at Berry College in Georgia, her plans were to become a veterinarian. By the time she graduated with her animal science degree, her plans changed to focusing on wildlife and conservation.

“All of my post college work experience has been more in that direction versus veterinary medicine,” she said. 

Gibson moved to Pocahontas County to work as a wildlife technician with the U.S. Forest Service – Marlinton District. Prior to this move, she had worked in Tanzania with the Peace Corps.

“I was there for three years,” she said. “For the first two years, I was living in a rural village as an agriculture volunteer, so I was organizing community agriculture projects. Then, my third year I was working with international wildlife conservation – working with them more on a data and mapping side, and also community education through their program.”

The standard volunteer time with Peace Corps is 27 months, but Gibson expanded her time to work with the wildlife conservation group.

Her time was cut a little short due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but Gibson said she was ready to come back to the states and find a job in the wildlife field.

“I was definitely ready to come back,” she said. “It’s nice to be back in the U.S. I did not have any area in mind at all. I was looking more for the opportunity that would take me to the experience I wanted. I applied all over the country. I almost went to Oregon, but ended up in West Virginia instead.”

Gibson started her job at the Forest Service in September and has been doing office work, waiting for the spring to come so she can begin her field work.

“I am very ready for field season,” she said. “I’m excited to get started. It’s the part I’m most interested in. I’ll mainly be working with terrestrial animals – mammals, birds, reptiles. My primary focus is the terrestrial, but we do have an aquatic technician. He’s going to be coming on at the beginning of the field season, and he and I will probably work together.”

Once in the field, Gibson said her main goal will be to monitor the types of species that are living in the forest, as well as monitor the habitat to ensure they have a healthy and safe environment.

“Also part of it is recognizing which areas are favorable habitats for endangered, threatened or just species of interest so that we can protect them,” she said. “For instance, we have mapped out all the known roost trees for our bat species that we’re interested in, so that if we’re doing a project in an area, we know which trees are used as roost trees and we can protect them.”

Although she works with all wildlife, Gibson said she has a particular interest in carnivores and is looking forward to learning more about the carnivores of the Monongahela National Forest.

“Bears and smaller cats, like bobcats, I don’t have much experience with them yet,” she said. “I’m really excited to learn more about all the other species. I just learned about the eastern spotted skunk, and I’m fascinated that we have them in this area, historically at least.

“I’m excited to see what I can learn more about.”

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