Wild Pantex: Guest Blog by Madeleine Thornley, Wildlife Intern

  • Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2019, 9:33 am

Hi everyone, my name is Madeleine Thornley and I am working at Pantex this summer as the wildlife intern in the Environmental Compliance Department. I recently graduated this May from Texas Tech University with a degree in Natural Resources Management and I am pursuing a career researching wildlife and ecology. Pantex conducts quite a few research projects closely with Texas Tech, so I heard about the work while I was a student there. I was drawn to apply to this internship position because of the heavy research focus and the good things that I had heard about Pantex. I am grateful for this opportunity to learn from Jim Ray, a Wildlife Biologist and Monty Schoenhals, an Agronomist who care about outreach, research, and helping young professionals gain expertise.

Throughout my time at Tech, I served as an officer for the Texas Tech Chapter of the Wildlife Society and I worked in a research lab focused on birds of prey. I’ve conducted research projects on the food habits of North America’s smallest falcon, the American Kestrel, and urban water birds like herons and egrets in urban lakes of Lubbock, Texas. Before this summer, I had spent previous field seasons doing field technician work researching avian and vegetation responses to thinning pinyon-juniper woodlands in New Mexico, diseases and parasites in Lesser Prairie Chickens in the panhandle of Texas, and the ecology of nesting American Kestrels in the Llano Estacado of Texas. Outside of my past jobs, I’ve also spent time volunteering on research projects throughout West Texas, so I have had the opportunity to work with quite a few species and gain diverse field skills.

What I am looking forward to most this summer is my research project on milkweed, and pollinators like the Monarch Butterfly. Pantex has been conducting research on milkweeds for the last few years by conducting surveys for the plants and assessing Monarch Butterfly presence in the forms of both the larval and adult forms. Assessing characteristics of the plant and butterfly use will allow us to answer important questions for pollinators in the region. Pollinators are experiencing a steady decline, so this research is vital. Some other projects that I will be involved with this summer include: helping with a current long-term Purple Martin project, conducting surveys for birds and Texas Horned Lizards, and assisting Pantex’s research on the large Burrowing Owl population at the plant.

This job is going to be vastly different than that of any others that I have worked - almost all of my experiences are from the research side of things, but this summer I will be learning a lot about the management side of things as well. The Environmental Compliance Department plays a big role in the important work conducted at the Pantex Plant, and I am excited to be gaining insight into what their day-to-day life consists of, and the challenges that they face.

Madeleine Thornley holding a female American Kestrel

Madeleine Thornley holding a female American Kestrel while working for a Texas Tech graduate student. (Note: Texas Tech University possessed proper state and federal permits for handling this species for research purposes.)