Growing up in a little town in Michigan north of Detroit, Emily Card knew from a young age that she wanted a career working with animals. She earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology at Michigan State, and her degree paved the way for a job as an ecology intern at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. That experience led to her next job experience, as a grassland ecology technician in Montana.

“That’s where I fell in love with grassland birds. We worked with long-billed curlews: doing nest searches, trapping them and banding them with GPS tags to track their movements.”

That experience qualified her for a field technician position on a winter marsh bird monitoring project in Biloxi, Mississippi, followed by another job at the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park in Okeechobee, Florida, working with the endangered Florida grasshopper sparrow.

“I met a former grad student from the Borderlands Research Institute while I was working in Florida. I found out about the work BRI is doing with grassland birds, and that’s how I ended up here in Texas.”

Scientists have documented that grassland birds that winter in the Chihuahuan Desert are declining twice as fast as birds that winter elsewhere in the United States. Emily and another graduate student, Alejandro Chávez Treviño, are exploring research questions to determine why that is happening. Emily’s research study is exploring whether habitat that has been encroached upon by woody shrubs can be treated to restore grassland habitat to see if bird populations can be boosted.