Mesa Community College biology student Andy Bridges has really had a “hands on” experience working in Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park. In the past two seasons at the park he captured, marked, measured and weighed more than 1,200 lizards, snakes, toads and small mammals.
In his paid position as a Seasonal Biological Technician in the park, Bridges gathered data to contribute to a long-term research study documenting reptile and amphibian populations. He also did some analysis of the collected data and reported the results to park management.
Bridges said when he first moved to the Phoenix area four years ago, he thought volunteering for outdoor projects would be a great way to see the state and help conservation efforts. While working on volunteer projects he noticed how most of the volunteers weren’t just spectators in the outdoors giving a few hours of service on a weekend, they were people who knew natural places needed to be protected and were actually doing something to help.
“They also knew a lot about the area’s geography, natural history, current management efforts and political situation, had outdoor skills, and used their common interests and experiences to develop strong friendships,” Bridges said. “Working alongside these other volunteers, I felt a little inadequate and unprepared to contribute fully, which sparked a desire to learn more about our state and its diverse plants, wildlife, and resource issues.”
So Bridges, who held an undergraduate degree in political science, began taking classes at MCC’s Red Mountain campus.
“Based in large part on my volunteer experience and the enthusiasm of teachers and colleagues at MCC, I chose to pursue a career in the biological sciences, specifically working with wildlife,” Bridges said.
His MCC classes provided him with a foundation to pursue an advanced degree in biology and prepared him for internship opportunities.
“MCC’s classes in natural history, geography, and biology, plus the outstanding opportunities for undergraduate research, and field experience, helped me prepare to be successful in a summer wildlife internship for a state agency and work effectively as a field biologist for a federal agency,” Bridges said.
Additionally, the recommendations and support of MCC teachers helped him get accepted to, and be successful in graduate school. He transferred to the Arizona State Polytechnic campus and graduated this past December with a master’s degree in applied biological sciences.
Bridges said he continues to volunteer outdoors and now feels much more effective and enjoys the experience even more. He is excited about his chosen career path.
“I have enjoyed researching animals in the field with MCC, ASU, Arizona Game and Fish Dept. and the National Park Service, and hope to continue to do more of the same,” Bridges said.