Road Blocks, Red Rocks, and Red-Tailed Hawks

Road Blocks, Red Rocks, and Red-Tailed Hawks

Hey, hi, hello, howdy, and what’s up to YOU (the lucky person who happens to be reading my very first blog post)!!

My name is Sejal Rajamani (she/her), I’m from Bloomington, Indiana, and I am a rising senior at Washington University in St. Louis where I’m majoring in environmental biology with minors in psychology and legal studies. I’m currently living in Moab, Utah, because for the next 10 weeks I’ll be working as an ecology assistant in several national parks and monuments throughout southern Utah, such as Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park! Throughout this summer I’ll be chronicling my adventures in this blog, so keep reading to hear all about my first few weeks as a Midwest girl in the desert…

Me!! (at a waterfall in Yellowstone National Park last summer)

Road Blocks

Let’s start with how I got to Moab, Utah. To stick to the basics, I drove in my trusty Subaru Outback named Alfred. Me and a friend from college caravanned from St. Louis, Missouri, to Lincoln, Nebraska, to Fort Collins, Colorado, to Park City, Utah (where I left my friend), and finally to Moab. The trip was over 1500 miles, took about 4 days, and was a whirlwind of trying to find the cheapest gas, selfies at every state sign on the interstate, and the craziest weather I’ve ever witnessed. When I arrived in Fort Collins it was 87 degrees, and I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt, but the next morning the temperature was 34 degrees with freezing rain and a winter storm warning that shut nearly every road down and stranded me and my friend in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for half a day. But eventually I made it to Moab, safe and sound.

Made it to Utah after what felt like YEARS of driving 🙂

Red Rocks

My first day in Moab was surreal. After spending hours moving into my new apartment, it started to sink in that the beautiful red cliffs that could be seen in all directions were actually part of my new home for the summer. The beauty was astounding, and I doubt I’ll ever get tired of the red rocks that now surround me. And within the first week that I arrived, I was given a multitude of opportunities to be fully immersed in the stunning nature that exists in this little area of the world. I hiked into the canyons to help collect water quality samples, I traversed red rocks in search of raptor (birds of prey) nests, and I was even able to go on an overnight trip down the Colorado River to take river water samples and check on bat acoustics monitors! I spent the first day of that trip hiking up my first-ever canyon and I spent the night sleeping on the banks of the river, gazing at more stars than most people probably see in their life.

                                        The first day of field work!

Learning how to use a scope to get a better view of raptor nests.

My very first river trip!

Red-tailed Hawks

During my second week, I got the chance to be a little more independent and to take part in what has been my favorite part of this internship so far: raptor monitoring. I was sent to explore Arches National Park, to familiarize myself with the park, and to find and check on a few Red-tailed Hawk nests. I swear I nearly got lost trying to find one of the nests, and I even came across a deer! I thought I was familiar with deer, given the abundance of White-tailed Deer in Indiana, but the Mule Deer in Utah totally caught me off guard with its size. They are so much bigger! After the deer encounter, I eventually located the Red-tailed Hawk nest which I was very excited about, but the hawks did not share my sentiment. They were quite territorial, screeching and circling above me almost the whole time I was in the area. But despite their unfriendly welcome, it was still incredible to witness these birds in their natural habitat and I can’t wait to keep learning about all the wildlife throughout these national parks.


My view as I monitored a Red-tailed Hawk nest by myself.

In the upcoming week I’ll be getting out into the field with a new field crew and doing a week of camping and upland vegetation monitoring in Capitol Reef National Park! I can’t wait to explore this park and learn even more about the ecology of southern Utah. Stay tuned to hear about all about my future exploits and for a report on my level of smelliness after a whole week without a shower…

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