My name is Giselle Lares Ragoonanan, I am an indigenous naturalist, assistant field researcher, nature soundscape recorder, and wildlife conservationist. I live on the twin island of Trinidad and Tobago at the end of the Caribbean archipelago. Trinidad was once connected to the mainland, making my country a unique combination of rainforest habitat and Caribbean tropical climate. A geographical relic.
I started my degree in Business Management in 2012 with a local accredited university (School of Business & Computer Science) but quit before I graduated because I disliked business and had a burning passion for conservation and ecology. I went on to work in the business field for over seven years and would use all my free time to volunteer in wildlife surveys and programs to live my passion towards becoming a field biologist. My uncle Carl, a certified NABC bird bander since 2012, would teach me techniques and banding ethics while working with local and international universities. I would volunteer to assist in all related wildlife projects and have been involved in fieldwork for over six years.
In 2021, I officially quit my job, gave up my apartment, and left the city. I returned to Brasso Seco and began the journey of reclaiming my indigenous roots. I am an autodidact, I study extensively the importance of life which surrounds me, dawn and dusk chorus, breeding and nesting, howler troops and their localities, pit vipers and their behaviors, botany, herbal medicine, becoming skilled at identifying and observing, listening, and becoming with the rainforest. My passion for wildlife conservation drew me to birds.
Birds help to calm my anxious thoughts and become omnipresent, trying to understand their evolutionary ability to grow flight feathers, what feathers are used for take-off and landing, song and calls, mating, and molting strategies. It all continues to fascinate me, which is why I am drawn to the science of birds. In January 2022, I began my first internship with a local ecologist working on a bird genoscape project collecting blood samples of 100 rare birds on Trinidad and Tobago for the B10K project assigned by the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, using mist-netting. I have since worked on several projects with this local ecologist as well as projects with our local university (UWI) and the Trinidad & Tobago Field Naturalist Club, of which I am a member. As my knowledge expanded, I was assigned Director of our local community conservation organization (ARC Conservation), working to promote rainforest habitat protection through research and education.
I am currently pursuing a certificate in rainforest ecology with YALE University, and I would ultimately like to further my studies in ecology and avian biology. My dream is to open Trinidad’s first Bird Observatory in Brasso Seco. Our island’s pre-colonial name is Kairi Ierette- which translates to land of the hummingbird, with a documented 19 species across both islands; what a special land to have an observatory.
I feel very privileged to be selected as an intern for this year’s KBO internship. Klamath Bird Observatory is the best observatory in North America, providing the proficiency and necessary training required for the level of banding each individual is working towards. It is a dream to be here, and it feels almost surreal the opportunities provided through collaborative networking. My reason for coming to this internship is to become proficient and the best at what I do while constantly learning, applying, and teaching. With this model, I plan to take it back to Trinidad for long-term monitoring efforts and, with the support, eventually, open a sister observatory on Trinidad.
I joined the BirdsCaribbean community in 2022 after meeting Ellie Devenish Nelson at a mist-netting session. In March 2023, I participated in a Caribbean Bird Banding Training Workshop in the beautiful Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic. Since then, BirdsCaribbean has played a massive part in assisting with my work, including providing bird bands and sponsoring this KBO bird banding internship so I can become a certified NABC bander. I am grateful to be part of the Caribbean Bird Banding Network!
There is no better place I would choose to learn than at KBO, Birding in the Siskiyou Mountains!
KBO has offered over 300 banding internships to students from all over the world. This year, Giselle’s internship was made possible through KBO’s long-running partnerships BirdsCaribbean, US Forest Service International Programs, and US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Program, and through donations made to KBO’s Avian Internship Memorial Fund. You can help also support our internship program by visiting a banding station and meeting these scientists in action. Don’t miss our next Upper Klamath banding station visit on September 28th. You can learn more about this trip and register by clicking here.