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FNR Field Report: Alex Dudley

Students from Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources took their classroom knowledge to the field for summer internships and paid positions across the country, gaining valuable experience, hands-on training and career guidance. The FNR Field Reports series will offer updates from those individuals as summer positions and experiences draw to a close.Alex Dudley

Junior forestry-forest management and wildlife double major Alex Dudley worked as a research technician at the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment. In this role, Dudley reflagged trapping grids, caught and measured small mammals and assisted with moth trapping.

The position allowed Dudley to put immediately put into practice what she learned at FNR Summer Practicum in May.

“In this job, I was able to apply the skills I learned, from navigation to small mammal handling,” Dudley said. “Practicum prepared me to effectively handle this job. We often had to use GPS to locate trapping grids, and I’m extremely glad that I got handling experience beforehand.”

Although Practicum gave her the skills needed to perform her job, Dudley had other challenges to overcome.

“The most challenging part of this job was working through my fear of venomous snakes,” Dudley recalled. “We had one grid that was full of timber rattlers, and I had to convince myself that I could work through the fear, even if it meant doing some weird things to distract myself from potential snakes.”

In spite of her fear, the Sunman, Ind., native said she learned a lot and had a great experience working on the HEE.

Alex Dudley with a turtle“I learned the importance of collaboration in the field, whether it’s through helping others complete their trapping grids, or covering for someone when they’re not feeling well,” Dudley shared. “My favorite part of this job was getting to handle all kinds of cool animals. I especially loved all the turtles! I also really enjoyed getting to spend 95% of my summer outside.”

Dudley, who is also part of the Honors College, said her summer on the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment has inspired her to continue pushing toward her career goals.

““As I was one of the youngest employees, I really liked that my coworkers were willing to share their experiences and give advice on anything and everything, from resumes to potential jobs,” Dudley said. “This position only solidified my plan to continue working in wildlife. Although I don’t think I’ll want to do field work long term, I’m really grateful to have gotten this experience.”

At the 2022 FNR Awards Banquet, Dudley was named as a sophomore academic merit award recipient within the wildlife major and also a recipient of Ewbank-Bishop Endowed Scholarship, which is available to Indiana residents, who are forestry majors, and is awarded based on academic achievement, demonstrated leadership capacity and work experience in the timber industry.

Last year, Dudley conducted research on black vulture home ranges in the Midwest with Dr. Pat Zollner’s lab. She also was the president of the Honors College Residential Society, the secretary for the Purdue Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society (TWS), and the undergraduate representative for the North Central Section of TWS.

Dudley will attend Summer Practicum as a forestry student in May 2023. In the meantime, she will continue her research with Zollner, while acting as the vice president of TWS and acting as a resident advisor on campus.

A few of the sights from Alex Dudley's internship on the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment, including her coworkers, mammals and snakes

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