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Volunteer spotlight: Diana Munoz february 2019

Diana started volunteering at the California Raptor Center during the summer of 2012 while completing her undergraduate coursework in Avian Sciences at UC Davis. As an aspiring wildlife biologist, she was looking for hands-on experience working with birds. Raptors, Diana says, have always been one of her favorite animal groups, so she jumped at the chance to volunteer at the CRC. Since then, her years of volunteering at the CRC have been full of life-changing moments.

L-R: Diana teaching a raptor-drawing class at the CRC; one of Diana's amazing works of art

In 2014, the Raptor Center received a human-imprinted Turkey Vulture. He was not fearful of humans and was frequently found at the front of his enclosure during feeding, attempting to reach through the bars to interact with his caregivers. Diana and fellow volunteer Rachel Avila decided to attempt to train the non-releasable Turkey Vulture, then named “Orion”, as an educational ambassador. Vultures present unique training challenges given their relatively large size, inclination to nibble, and propensity to “decorate” gloves with their excrement. However, with patience and some trial and error, the two women figured it out, and Orion quickly settled into his new role as an ambassador for his species. Working with Orion kindled a lifelong love for vultures in Diana—so much so that she subsequently interned at Pinnacles National Park with the California Condor Recovery Program. Tragically, Orion passed away suddenly in 2015 from unknown causes. Orion’s death devastated Diana, but their time working together gave her the resolve to study vultures in the future.

Diana handling educational ambassador Orion for a class visit to the CRC

The Raptor Center played a pivotal role in Diana’s development as an individual and as a scientist. Diana describes herself as having been “painfully shy” prior to volunteering at the CRC, but she now assists with off-site education programs and has taught a few raptor drawing classes. Diana currently works as a Biological Science Technician for the U.S. Geological Survey and is concurrently pursuing a Master of Science in Ecology at UC Davis. Although her current project is centered on Black-crowned Night-Herons, her ultimate goal is to become involved in vulture research and conservation.

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