HUMANS OF THE U

“I’ve always loved animals and been interested in wildlife and maintaining wild places. When I started school at the University of Utah and learned that could actually be a career, I thought, ‘I’ve got to get a jump on that for sure.’

When I started volunteering at HawkWatch International, my first experience was in the field, capturing and banding raptors. They use a live pigeon to lure them into a bow net — it’s very exciting and a truly unique experience. One of them was a red-tailed hawk. We weigh it then measure its wingspan and talons so we can track their populations and see any changes in genetic expression. Then we place a band on their leg so that if that bird is seen again, we can say how far its traveled. I got the opportunity to release one of the hawks, and it was very exciting, very exhilarating. Before that I was into birds, but honestly, I wouldn’t have known the difference between a hawk and a falcon. At that point, I got much more passionate about it.

Birds are really interesting because from a research perspective, they are among the easiest wildlife to study because they’re very visible. It’s hard to miss a bird when it’s flying over your head. I think that’s why a lot of people connect to birds. For most people, it’s the first wild animal that they see, and it’s exciting to see them fly around and think about how different their lives are from our lives, but still how we’re so intimately connected.”

Colter Dye, undergraduate majoring in University Studies in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation; founder and president of the Wildlife and Conservation Science Club; sustainability ambassador with the Office of Sustainability; and affiliate of the Consortium for Dark Sky Studies

We’ll be featuring Humans of the U and sharing their stories throughout the year with the university community. If you know someone with a compelling story, let us know at ThisWeek@utah.edu.