Taking the Long View: An inside look at the goings-on at the longest running avian ecology field station west of the Mississippi.

Where Are They Now? Featuring 1997 Palomarin Intern Hilary Cooke

Where do Palomarin interns go after they complete their internship with us?  Our growing numbers of Palomarin alumni often continue on in the fields of conservation science and bird ecology, many becoming influential in their chosen field of study. Still others whose lives have gone in different directions have pursued paths of equal remark and fascination. To celebrate the diversity and successes of our former interns, volunteers, and staff, in the “Where Are They Now?” series we share stories of individual alumni, then and now.


Palomarin interns and staff in 1997 (Hilary in bottom row center)
Palomarin interns and staff in 1997 (Hilary in bottom row center)

Earlier this month, former Palomarin intern Hilary Cooke – a fall bander in 1997 – visited Palo, where she saw her first Wrentit in over a decade and explored the place that was formative in her career and life (i.e., where she learned important skills such as banding songbirds and making homemade pesto). She was in Bolinas visiting me and other Point Blue friends after attending The Nature Conservancy All-Science Conference in San Jose, where she presented on her conservation planning efforts in boreal Canada. Hilary and I became friends while interning together in 1997 along with fellow-interns Melissa Pitkin and Ryan Burnett, who are also Point Blue “recaptures” (now Education & Outreach Director and Sierra Nevada Group Director, respectively). It was fantastic to have Hilary back!

Hilary visiting the Palomarin banding lab in December 2013
Hilary visiting the Palomarin banding lab in December 2013

Today Hilary is based in Whitehorse, Yukon, where she is an Associate Conservation Scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Canada. Building on her early training as a field biologist with Point Blue Conservation Science (then PRBO), Hilary’s work and graduate studies have focused on conserving riparian songbirds in semi-arid rangelands of California, Oregon, and Wyoming, and cavity-nesting birds and mammals in old-growth boreal forest of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Her current work with WCS Canada in the Yukon includes developing best management practices for conserving songbirds in valley-bottom habitats, and landscape planning to conserve Yukon’s boreal ecosystems and wildlife.

About her visit, Hilary says “I had such a lovely weekend reconnecting with the people and places that meant so much to me in my early 20s. From the Palomarin Field Station, to the long-term monitoring site at Pine Gulch [on the Bolinas Lagoon], to the Black Oystercatcher on Agate Beach and wintering Golden-crowned Sparrows, to buying art at Keith Hansen’s studio…it was like I never left, and the warm welcome from old friends at Point Blue made it feel like I hadn’t.” Likewise, Hilary!

–Diana Humple, Palomarin Field Station project leader