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Capital Area Master Naturalists

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It was during  his late 20’s when Ross Livengood decided to get involved in something that didn’t include the spreadsheets, office culture and existential dread of  his mortgage job.  He started volunteering twice a month at the Austin Zoo and before he knew it, he was also working shifts at the Austin Nature and Science Center and Austin Wildlife Rescue.  As many involved with wildlife care will tell you, there is eventually a group you become most interested in, for Ross it was the birds.

Ross eventually wanted to take a more active role.  He emailed raptor rehabilitators from a list through Texas Parks and Wildlife.  After checking references to make sure he wasn’t a lunatic, Stephanie Boyd contacted Ross and offered to get him started. Stephanie, Sallie Delahoussaye, and Ed Sones not only rehabilitate injured wildlife, they also conduct educational programs for schools, youth groups, state parks and conservation groups with non-releasable education birds.  Between the three of them, Ross didn’t have any difficulty finding volunteer opportunities.

Most of Ross’ volunteering involves feeding the birds and cleaning the enclosures.  He also spends time taking the education birds for walks; this keeps them used to being dressed in various falconry equipment we use for programs, builds their level of comfort with Ross and is a great form of enrichment.  Other duties include the actual bird talks, keeping talons and beaks trimmed and checking the birds for any changes in behavior or health. Ross has  also had the chance to assist in a few avian surgeries with Dr. Susan Skylar, who addresses the health needs of the birds I work with and frequently assists Austin Wildlife Rescue with animals.

The most fascinating aspect of Ross’ volunteering journey (besides being friends with a hawk) has been the wide range of experiences as someone without a biology degree or previous experience. It’s amazing what doors can be opened with dedicated volunteering experience and just asking the right people, the right questions.  Stephanie, Sallie, Ed, and Susan have all been great mentors and Ross is grateful for the time he has  spent with them. Ross is also thankful for Jules Maron and Hayley Hudnall with Austin Wildlife Rescue, for their continued guidance and the work they do.

Ross Livengood
CAMN Class of 2020

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