In this interview, Mary Gannon, Brown University class of 2017, discusses the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic on her work as the Wildlife Outreach Coordinator for the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife and on local wildlife and conservation efforts.
Gannon begins by recalling her initial thoughts on the pandemic and the impact of its emergence in Rhode Island on her educational programming. She explains having to cancel numerous elementary class field trips as well as adult programming. She also compares the way these educational visits usually happen to how they had to be transformed into online formats.
Gannon goes on to explain how wildlife has changed during the pandemic, including how it is appearing more conspicuously as more humans stay inside. She also comments on how calls to the Division have shifted away from complaints about “nuisance” wildlife to people remarking on the new species they’re noticing in their communities. She notes that studies regarding wildlife interactions with humans may return skewed data given the fact that fewer people are commuting. Gannon adds that some of the Division’s projects have been halted because of uncertainty around virus transmission and whether certain species can carry or contract COVID-19, including projects to track or rehabilitate big brown bats.
As she winds down her interview, Gannon details the ways that people can safely spend time in state parks, management parks, and Audubon refuges. She emphasizes safety measures, such as when it is required for visitors to wear fluorescent orange, and “leave no trace” environment ethics. She wants listeners to know that the Division of Fish and Wildlife cares deeply about wildlife conservation and hopes that in 50 years threatened and endangered species populations will be rejuvenated for all to enjoy.