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She helped investigators determine that a flock of European starlings was to blame for a fatal plane crash," Forensic Scientist Ariel Gaffney. There is a wide array of forensic scientists that deal with morphology, genetics, and pathology who support the OLE in the field to facilitate the legal wildlife trade as well as examine, identify, and compare evidence and provide expert testimony during investigations and court proceedings.

What was your career path that brought you to the Service? However, my passion is birds. InI started working for the U. I had the opportunity to helicopter into remote areas of the Big Island so we could catch, sample, and treat native birds infected with this type of mange.

I also got to process the field samples at the USGS lab to examine the rate of avian malaria infections. I never knew this field existed. I was debating whether I would go on to pursue my PhD, but after hearing what a forensic ornithologist does, I wanted to do that. I went from studying hummingbird physiology and behavior to morphological identification of feathers and bird parts - it was a bit of a shift. However, during my field research with USGS and through my education, I learned how to use morphological differences to determine the age and sex of live birds, which has proven very useful for my identifications work here at the Lab.

This position has given me the opportunity to combine my knowledge of bird morphology and taxonomy with my desire to be a part of an applied science. Why do you believe your job makes a positive difference? There are biologists who work on the study of wildlife and their habitats, there are law enforcement officers that investigate crimes, and my position as a forensic ornithologist allows me to bridge the gap between both worlds.

Our team at the OLE works to facilitate the legal trade and help stop the illegal trade, and I get to play a small, but important part in that. My identifications let our agents and inspectors know whether the feather they are looking at is a legal turkey feather or one from an endangered species. What else do you enjoy about your job? I also really enjoy being in a capacity to still do research. Can we compile a short and concise list of characters that our agents and inspectors could use in the field?

Wildlife forensics is still such a young field, so anything we can do to further the research in this area is exciting. What advice would you give to a young woman who is thinking about pursuing a career like yours? Ornithology has traditionally been a male dominated field, but I would say, over the last decade or so, there has been an increase in females. I feel like I should mention that the professors I worked with in undergrad and grad school were extremely supportive and really valued having a diverse group of students to which they mentored.

She helped investigators determine that a flock of European starlings was to blame for a fatal plane crash. Roxie went on to train and mentor other brilliant women including Dr. What I love about the job… I love that we, the scientists at the Lab, also get to work with our counterparts in other countries.

Our lab has become a resource for countries beginning their own wildlife forensic laboratories. For example, we walk them through how we perform casework, our protocol documents, and the handling and storage of evidence. In addition, I get the opportunity to learn about the wildlife trade and law enforcement in other countries. I love that it is used by not only law enforcement as a resource, but also by everyday people and kids to help them identify the feathers they find in their backyards. Yearly, we have over a million hits on the website and we keep increasing the of birds - we currently have up to species represented on the atlas.

Dove about techniques such as microscopy. If you have a small white feather, how can you tell if it came from a duck, a raptor, or a turkey? If you examine the feather under a microscope, you can see there are microscopic structures that are unique to each of these groups… Another tool for my toolbox! Protecting Wildlife and Plant Resources. As part of her research with USGS, Ariel was capturing, checking health, monitoring for avian diseases, banding the birds, and releasing them back to the wild.

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Forensic Scientist Ariel Gaffney