Wildlife Rehabilitation Intern Learns Amid Brown Pelican Crisis

When Genyss Duncan, a student at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA, joined the Bird Rescue internship program, she was initially told by the Los Angeles Center Manager that it was expected to be a slow summer. Nobody could predict that she would actually be working on the frontlines of a major seabird crisis.

Intern Genyss Duncan spent her first day at Bird Rescue tending to dozens of Brown Pelicans in dire need of heat, hydration, and nutrition. Photos: Ariana Gastelum – International Bird Rescue

On May 17, Genyss’s first official day, she was greeted by dozens of pet carriers stacked on top of each other, filled with one to two Brown Pelicans in dire need of heat, hydration, and nutrition.

Though Genyss had zero previous experience handling birds, she was ready to learn quickly and help wherever she was needed. In her role, she proved to be essential member of the team that responded to the 2022 California Brown Pelican Crisis, the largest influx of Brown Pelicans seen at our centers since 2012.

The internship program at International Bird Rescue is a rigorous, hands-on learning program that immerses participants in every aspect of the operation of an aquatic bird hospital. Interns who are able to adjust to the pace and volume of the peak season caseload have an advantage in adapting successfully to working in an oil spill response. This program now includes a small stipend to help cover personal costs during this three to six month internship.

“Don’t have any expectations of what exactly you’re going to see,” Genyss advises future interns. “Just know that you’re going to have a good time if you put the work in, make connections with people, and just do your best.”

Wildlife Rehabilitation Intern Genyss Duncan assists a wildlife technician as they perform a Brown Pelican’s final exam prior to release.