Meet the eradication team…Jose-Luis Herrera

Jose setting a camera trap. The camera-trap is intended to detect occupancy of invasive species in different areas of Mona Island, Puerto Rico.

Jose setting a camera trap to detect occupancy of invasive species in different areas of Mona Island, Puerto Rico.

Hello, my name is Jose-Luis otherwise known as “Jose”. I’m from Colombia and after being an elite athlete doing track and field representing my country, I won a scholarship to study natural sciences in the island of Puerto Rico (Caribbean). My passion and interest for nature started as a child when I noticed my mom’s passion and love for the reptiles, in particular when she explained to me the importance of conserving and preserving the natural resources, which marked my life. During my undergraduate life in Puerto Rico, I worked in a research project for two years with a Plant Pathology professor who specialized in Mycology (study of fungi). Following some of my mom’s heritage, I had the opportunity to work with sea turtle, conducting nesting patrols and management of sea turtle hatchlings for two years.  In addition, during that time I also served as a volunteer in conservation projects focusing on endemic reptiles and amphibian species population studies. As you may have figured out, my work interests were mostly in the amphibians and reptiles. This interest motivated me to start graduate studies in this field, herpetology, doing research in an off-shore island east of mainland Puerto Rico called Vieques. My research project focused on studying the herpetofaunal composition of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge right after the presence of the U.S Navy. The study helped to assess the population status of amphibians and reptiles species after 30 years or occupancy by the U.S Navy. As part of my graduate student life I was working as teaching assistant for the herpetology, general zoology and biology laboratories for undergraduate students.

Jose handling a rock iguana

Jose handling a Caribbean Rock Iguanas (Hispaniolan Rhinoceros Iguana – Cyclura cornuta).

During this journey, I had the opportunity to assist graduate students in research projects in the Dominican Republic with a focus on collecting and fixation of reptiles and thermal biology studies with Anoles (lizards) species. I also had the opportunity to work as professional consultant conducting field surveys and monitoring endangered species such as snakes (the endangered Puerto Rican boa), sea turtles and toads.

In 2009, I started working as a contractor with the University of California at Santa Cruz developing and implementing population studies of a single-island endemic gecko from Desecheo Island, an off-shore island west of mainland Puerto Rico, which is part of the Caribbean Islands National Wildlife Refuge System. The study was part of a monitoring program established in Desecheo to measure the population changes pre and post a black rat eradication. Since then, I started to learn more and more and more…. and I hope to continue learning about the removal of the biggest cause of species extinctions on islands: invasive species. Since the beginning of my learning process, I was aware that the New Zealanders are global leaders in island eradications and I said … “I have to go to New Zealand at some time before I die…” putting this in my professional bucket list.

In 2010, I started working part-time with Island Conservation, the U.S based non-governmental organization whose mission is to prevent extinctions by removing invasive species from islands. Initially I worked through the logistics and planning associated with the Desecheo restoration project through invasive species eradications (black rats and rhesus macaques). At the end of 2010, after completing graduate studies, I joined Island Conservation as an employee, working full time with the operational planning and project implementation scheduled for 2012. Since 2011 to date I have participated in different aspects of eradication projects including developing partnerships, planning, compliance, implementation and fundraising.

When I heard about the opportunity to work on the Antipodes Mouse Eradication project, I said… “this is my opportunity” not only to work with champions in eradications, but also to be part of such a wonderful and challenging restoration project! And of course… visit a World Heritage Site and one of the most remote and pristine places in the world where not too many human beings have the opportunity to visit… and that I will have the fortune to visit and even better…work to conserve unique species.

 

Jose swepping the study sites in order to detect precence absence of target pests

Jose presenting a trapping technique

Jose presenting a trapping technique

When I received the offer to be an Antipodes team member, I was in shock for 10 minutes, speechless!! And my next words were…oh my God…this is AMAZING…I got it!!!!

My role in the Antipodes Mouse Eradication Project will be as Bait Loader, working with a group of people including a colleague from Island Conservation, making sure that all the bait loading activities are executed following the operational plan in order to implement successfully the mouse eradication. The networking, experiences, partnership, friendships and knowledge that the project will provide me will be solid and immense for my professional and personal development. To have the opportunity to be in contact with the wonderful wildlife and landscape that the Subantartic Islands offer is something that makes my dream awake!

I will be heading out to Antipodes with the eradication team in May 2016 to begin the operation… I will continue celebrating this amazing work opportunity and preparing my body and mind for the coming challenges and lifetime experiences.

Read more about the endangered Rock Iguana.

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