Brooke Bowman appreciates the full circle moments in her life.
She is pursuing a Master of Science degree in Range and Wildlife Management at the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) at Sul Ross State University in Alpine. A childhood trip to Yellowstone National Park with her family kindled Brooke’s interest in wildlife. She always knew she wanted to study the natural world around her, and earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the University of Texas in Austin.
She interned at the Houston Zoo, The Nature Conservancy, the Bamberger Ranch Preserve in Central Texas, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Those experiences confirmed her career choice, and also the need to earn a master’s degree. She’s gained work experience as she pursued her studies, including as a botany research technician for the University of Idaho, a northern bobwhite trapping technician for Oklahoma State University, and as a teaching assistant at Sul Ross. In early 2023, she applied for what she considers a dream job: a common loon technician for the Ricketts Conservation Foundation in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
“I feel so lucky and so blessed to be able to be working in the place that made me want to pursue conservation in the first place,” said Brooke. “My dream destination has always been Yellowstone. This seasonal job fulfilled that dream and it is just great. It’s super inspiring just to be out here.”
Her work day involves hiking 2 to 10 miles with 25 to 40 pounds of gear, depending on the day’s assignment. The crew sets up a scope to look for common loons, monitoring nesting and chick survival.
“Common loons are doing pretty well, except for in this pocket of the United States. There is an isolated population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and we’re looking into the impact of human activity on their nesting success.”
Back in Texas, Brooke is focused on finishing up her master’s thesis.
“My project is looking at habitat selection and movement of scaled quail in the Permian Basin on an oil and gas field. I am trying to determine whether oil and gas development is actually affecting their behavior and habitat selection.”
That’s a full circle moment for her, too.
“I grew up in an oil and gas town in the greater Houston area, so I kind of came full circle when it comes to my thesis. My background definitely informed my thesis topic.”
Brooke hopes to defend her thesis in late 2023. After that, she hopes to spend some time near her family.
“I hope to land somewhere in Houston at least for the next few years and hopefully either do environmental consulting, or work for a nonprofit focusing on birds. I want to hang with my family for a bit before I contemplate moving anywhere else.”
As she prepares for the next step in her life and career, she’s grateful for her experiences at the Borderlands Research Institute.
“I’ve learned so much here, and especially how science comes full circle. I’ve learned that to be successful, I need to be able to do the analysis and the research and know how to write. BRI has helped me push a lot of boundaries, and I feel like I am a more well-rounded scientist now, ready for the next step in my career.”