Biologist Keel shares about black bears, other wildlife

Published 9:04 pm Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Rotary Club’s newest member, Morgan Keel, gave the club insight into the life of a wildlife biologist, as she related her work experiences with studies of black bear, gopher tortoise, wild turkey and bobwhites.
Keel, who is employed with Environmental Research Group, LLC, (erg) an environmental consulting firm, is a graduate of Auburn University with a Bachelor’s in Wildlife Science.
During her college years she took advantage of summer internships to advance her hands-on experience. One with the Florida Wildlife Commission involved a gopher tortoise population density survey in Walton County on Division of Forestry land and making recommendations back to them on how to help preserve the tortoise.
Another pre-graduation study was done in the Cypress, Red and Sulphur River Basins of Northeast Texas where she did a black bear presence/absence study and never saw a bear. She took part in a habitat suitability study to determine if there was adequate food and cover to support black bears.
Following her graduation she was variously employed doing extensive black bear research with the Florida Wildlife Commission, and in areas of Mississippi, and Louisiana, where she performed work for the University of Tennessee.
The research included collecting bear hair snares from the barb wire that fenced baited areas, live capture, tagging and weighing of bears, cub counts, and checking on the occupancy of dens.
Working again with the Florida Wildlife Commission, she developed a manual on the handling of black bears and did public outreach, attending schools and festivals and talking about black bears.
At Tall Timbers she worked on a Bobwhite project, capturing and placing radio unit tags on the birds.
While working at Mississippi State, she was involved with wild turkey recolonization and studying black bears statewide. She noted that the state of Mississippi has the only natural recolonization of black bear colonies in the country.
In addition to her job with erg, she is an avid bird watcher and volunteers with the Georgia Department of Natural resources and writes for Delta Wildlife magazine.
She recently traveled to Jacksonville, Fla. to participate in a snowy owl invasion study.

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