MCLA Alum Returns from Six-Month Internship at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center

While some recent college graduates move home, apply for jobs or continue their education, MCLA alumnus Sienna Paulsen ‘21 flew south for the birds. 
Sienna Pailsen with Bird

Paulsen spent the majority of 2022, from February
to August, at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center
(FKWBC) for an internship that she applied for
after graduating in December. After obtaining her bachelor's in Environmental Science, Paulsen
knew she wanted to work an animal care job and found the internship to be a wonderful experience
learning aviation rehab.

“When I found the job posting for the FKWBC Avian
Care Internship, it sounded like something I would really enjoy,” Paulsen said. “As an intern, I would be
able to work at the rehabilitation hospital as well as the bird sanctuary, so I would gain experience in
both avian rehab and husbandry. I got to work with
so many cool birds, participated in patient rescues,
care, and releases, and even met one of my best friends while at FKWBC.”

Because Paulsen grew up in Western Mass., she expressed her hesitancy about being so far from
home for a long period of time. She said it was difficult in the beginning but that she wouldn’t have had the experiences she did without going outside of her comfort zone.

“Besides learning about everything involved in avian rehabilitation, one of my biggest takeaways was the realization that I could be successful in new and unfamiliar situations,” she said. “It may be challenging, but I don’t want to hold myself back from opportunities just because I might be nervous about the change.”

Traveling to Florida gave Paulsen the advantage of working with shorebirds and seabirds that don’t live in the Northeast. She spent time working in the rehabilitation hospital as well as the bird sanctuary and learned about both aviation rehab and husbandry.

Now that Paulsen has returned home, she is searching for jobs out west and along the east coast. Her experience in Florida has inspired her to pursue more work in a wildlife rehab settings, specifically with birds.

“Working in a wildlife rehab facility is rewarding in many ways but it was also difficult to see so many patients harmed as a direct result of human activity. I think I would like to work as a wildlife rehabber, but I also want to learn about what else may be done to protect birds and other wildlife species,” she said.

Paulsen’s passion for wildlife conservation stemmed from studying wildlife management, conservation biology and ornithology at MCLA.

“I was also very fortunate to work with Dr. Dan Shustack on a few different ornithological research projects while at MCLA, all of which taught me valuable lab and field work skills,” she said. “Learning about birds and working with everyone involved in the research projects was one of the best parts of my undergrad experience and definitely inspired me to apply for the internship at FKWBC.”

She emphasized the small class sizes at MCLA and how it allowed her to connect more closely with professors who shared their time and knowledge.

“I’m confident that my time at MCLA provided me with the communication skills and academic foundation needed to succeed in the environmental science field,” she said.

Paulsen was a recipient of the 2020-2021 Feigenbaum Scholarship and received $6,000 for her project “How is Nesting Behavior of Veeries Influenced by Exotic Shrubs?” The Feigenbaum Scholars are MCLA undergraduate students who are entrepreneurs, innovators, and leaders researching ways to build capacity and explore emerging trends.

FKWBC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of native and migratory wild birds that have been harmed or displaced; providing or locating a humane shelter for those birds that cannot be released; and educating the public towards the importance of coexistence with all wild bird species.