My Summer with the Crane Trust

July 22, 2015

On a beautiful August morning, the sun penetrated through the clouds and reflected off the mucky water as I trekked through a slough on Shoemaker Island, a wet meadow adjacent to the Platte River in central Nebraska.

Walking through Shoemaker Island. Photo by Sierra Harris.

I followed staff and interns with the Crane Trust to check on small mammal traps that were placed throughout the slough the previous night. As we checked the traps that August morning, we were lucky enough to have captured several small mammal species, including the meadow jumping mouse.

The mammals were captured for a marker retention study, designed to observe which method of marking is most effective in the long term. The Crane Trust staff delicately injected a specific number of dots of non-toxic, ultraviolet tattoo ink into the tail, marked the underside of a leg with a permanent marker, and placed a small numbered tag on the ear of each captured mammal.

After being marked, a deer mouse rests before it’s released. Photo by Sierra Harris.

At first I had mixed feelings about the tattoo ink, but as we sloshed through the slough Crane Trust Wildlife Biologist Greg Wright explained that the UV dots will allow them to monitor each species without continuously trapping them, a useful tool that can be used to study sensitive endangered mammals. This field work is an excellent way of teaching field biology techniques to future scientists, and is one of many research projects the Crane Trust is conducting to study, maintain, and protect habitat along the Big Bend stretch of the Platte River.

This summer I had the opportunity to be part of the Crane Trust outreach team. During the last three months I have been assisting their staff and interns in developing outreach materials and media content. The purpose of this content is to showcase the research and habitat management activities performed by the Crane Trust to educate and engage diverse audiences.

Funded by the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the Research Experience to Achieve Conservation of Habitat (REACH) program started in the summer of 2013 to provide graduate and undergraduate students with hands-on training and field experience related to conservation. The REACH program has been successful in educating interns with fun and engaging summer work. Photo by Sierra Harris.

I looked forward to the days I ventured out to the Crane Trust to photograph the staff, technicians, and interns on a normal day in the field. Each day provided me with an educational experience in a gorgeous environment amongst a tall grass prairie or flowing river.

When I wasn’t at the Crane Trust, I was back in Lincoln browsing through images taken from trail cameras. Ten cameras were placed throughout Mormon Island in 2013 and eight on the Platte River in 2014 to capture sandhill crane behavior.

Sandhill cranes socialize as golden sunrays peak over the horizon. Photo by Crane Trust.

As I shuffled through the images, I pulled out sequences for time-lapse videos that show sandhill cranes foraging during the day or roosting at night. I also selected and edited images that show the four categories of crane behaviors analyzed for another scientific research study conducted by the Crane Trust.

Platte Basin Timelapse and the Crane Trust share a common goal of educating the public about the Platte River Basin. The content I created this summer will be displayed in the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center to help accomplish this.

I have been working for the Platte Basin Timelapse project for three years now and it has been quite the adventure. I didn’t know much about the Platte River Basin when I started, but now I feel like an expert on the topic. My knowledge of the basin grew over the years as I created time-lapse videos and wrote about the purpose of each camera location, but the bulk of my knowledge came from working with project co-founders Michael Forsberg and Michael Farrell. My passion for the environment and photography led me to PBT, but the people I have worked with have made my time with the project unforgettable.

Summer student work at the Crane Trust was supported by the Nebraska Environmental Trust. Sierra Harris was a PBT intern and staff member from 2011 through 2014.


PBT team photo. Summer 2023

About PBT

We are a group of storytellers using timelapse photography and multimedia storytelling to explore watersheds. PBT has been in motion since 2011.

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