Owls & Introductions

Awakening by the side of the lake and with the sun rising, the team prepared for a day of exploration. On the agenda for the day was a search for the Burrowing Owl, a species that has been heavily impacted by rapid human development and habitat destruction. To get an idea of the population health and structure of burrowing owls here in Arizona, the team headed out to Zanjero Park.


Adventure Term cofounder, Kyle Ritland, tracked common nesting grounds for the Burrowing Owls and determined that Zanjero Park would be our best bet to find these beauties. Zanjero Park was developed by an NGO called Wild At Heart as new burrowing grounds for the owls. A passerby explained that they’ve witnessed one male and a few females in the area lately. However, as the team searched the man-made burrows, there were no sightings. Have no fear though— nothing can stop this team from continuing their adventures.


Let’s meet the team members…


Melisa: the official meme lover of our troop, the sunscreen queen, and lover of nature. 


Melisa is a 4th year PhD student at Cornell University in the Genetics, Genomics, and Development program, but is learning how to walk on her hands on the side. To explore the real-world reaches of lab work that Melisa has had experience with, she decided that she wanted to join the Adventure Team and explore the depths of Arizona. Science communication, another passion of Melisa’s, also drove her to this program. 

Olivia: the giggliest of the bunch, an avid rock collector, and a lover and collector of house plants.


Olivia works at the Alliance For The Great Lakes in Chicago as an Outreach Affiliate. Olivia decided to join this program because of her previous experience with field work and scientific work. This work helped her develop her desire to increase the reach of science communication to communities and draw people to nature. 

Catherine: A music maniac, fiesta and siesta master (and founder of Siesta to Fiesta in 60 Seconds), who lives for desert desserts. 


Catherine is completing her first year of her PhD in Genetics, Genomics, and Development at Cornell University. While Catherine loves working in a lab, nature has always drawn her to adventure outdoors. Specifically, Catherine joined the Adventure Term in Arizona to learn more about science communication, but being outside in these beautiful places doesn’t hurt either. 

We can’t forget about the two founders of Adventure Term, Trevor and Kyle Ritland. 

Trevor: a hot-dog bun enthusiast who loathes spices, but is truly one of the goofiest goobers I’ve ever met. He did have a rat tail, AKA his Padawan braid, when he was little so he could be a Star Wars character after all.


Trevor helped found this program because there’s a lot of stories out there about science and endangered species that the general community doesn't know a lot about. The idea of this program is to help in the endeavor to make these topics as exciting as Star Wars or Jurassic Park. He chose Arizona because there is a lot more to this state than people think and it’s a great place to discuss the border wall, mines, and how human development impacts species. Plus, he lives here, which doesn’t hurt. 

Kyle: a bird fanatic, wielder of the peanut butter blade, and the best whistler in town. 


Kyle decided to found this program with Trevor based on the success of their first expedition: The Search For The American Crocodile. During that initial project, many members had no background in biology but were very interested in this topic. Even so, they successfully found crocodiles in the Everglades, made a documentary, and learned about environmental issues without previous background knowledge in the topic. 

Arizona was chosen because it’s an area they’ve never explored before for a project and it’s an area that has a huge range of ecosystems and species in a small range of space. This is one of the most rapidly developing areas that is being handled in the least constructive ways, so it’s a good place to look at habitat degradation, human development, border development, and how species are being impacted.


Stay tuned here to follow along with our adventures as we conduct our first interviews and begin our journey south toward the mountains of Tucson!

  • Blog by Catherine Kagemann, 6/17/19