Student Stories: 'Bird scientist' does unique work in Hawaii

Mike Lohr early on knew exactly what he wanted to be. When he was a kid, he called it a "bird scientist." Now he knows the proper title is avian ecologist.

The 2005 Penn State alumnus currently is involved in a groundbreaking conservation project at the Ka'ena Point Coastal Reserve in Hawaii. The effort targets the decreasing population of native seabirds, namely the Laysan albatross and the wedge-tailed shearwater.

The project, involving a "predator-proof" fence made from a fine mesh screen, prevents dogs, cats, rats, mongooses and mice from entering the reserve. These animals eat the eggs of these native birds, making it difficult for the populations to thrive.

"It's the first predator-proof fence to be built anywhere in the United States, and it has provided a successful model for other, similar projects under consideration in Hawaii," Lohr said. He joined the Ka'ena Point project when Pacific Rim Conservation, the company for which he works, was awarded a grant to supervise it.

"I've been thrilled to participate in the effort," he said. His roles range from general maintenance of the fence to assisting in removing mongooses and rodents to banding Laysan albatrosses and monitoring the wedge-tailed shearwater nesting success.

Lohr has been interested in birds as long as he can remember. His father taught him about all the common Eastern United States birds at a very young age. "I could identify the birds at our feeder by the time I was about 2 1/2," he said.

Graduating from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences with a bachelor's degree in wildlife and fisheries science, Lohr went on to earn a master's degree in wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware.

Lohr attributes much of his success to his time as a Penn State undergraduate. He credited the classes he took, the people he met and the experiences he had for helping him pursue his love for birds.

"I count myself lucky to be one of the few people I know who has managed to turn an obsession into a profession," he said.

Learn more about the Wildlife and Fisheries Science major.

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Last Updated May 09, 2013