Staff Spotlight: Aaron Angel

Check out our Q & A with Aaron, Beidler's Seasonal Bird Conservation Technician!

Aaron has dark hair, pulled back and is wearing a gray shirt and gray zip-up hoodie and is standing on a boardwalk with hand railing behind her along with green blasts of leaves in the background.
Photo: Matthew Johnson

Tell us a bit about your background - where are you from and where did you study?
I am from Southern California (although born on the east coast in NC). I grew up in the Inland Empire in Ontario, CA and attended high school in Eastvale, CA at Eleanor Roosevelt. I have focused much of my pre-research academia on coursework and exploring different subjects within science which helped me find a passion in environmental toxicology. I attained my undergraduate B.S. in Biology with a Zoology emphasis from CalPoly, Pomona as well. I knew I wanted a career working with animals and affecting positive change regarding the state of the environment. I also volunteered regularly at an environment-oriented non-profit organization, named Planet Rehab, in San Dimas. Within the 7 years I volunteered there, I helped organize countless community outreach events and school presentations regarding subjects like plastic and oil pollution, as well as deforestation. I also helped initiate and implement initiatives such as the Monarch Initiative, where I contacted and worked with local parks to attain permits to plant native Milkweed, the life-history plant of the Monarch butterfly.

I am currently completing my Master’s thesis in Dr. Bonisoli-Alquati’s lab at CalPoly, Pomona. My research is focused on investigating of toxic effects of Deepwater Horizon oil in the Seaside Sparrows that live in the Louisiana salt marsh. The project has inspired me to pursue a career in environmental toxicology, specifically focusing on contaminants affecting vulnerable avian species. I aspire to aid conservation efforts by providing the research necessary for actionable outcomes.

How about any hobbies or favorite things to do? 
My favorite thing to do in my free time is to visit a nice birding spot and bird watch – whether it is a hiking trail or local park. I recently invested in a nice camera and lens, so I have been trying to get some great shots of local and migrant birds to add to my eBird and Audubon lists. Otherwise, I enjoy spending time with family and relaxing with a nice bottle of wine and a movie or episode of Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, or Friends. Before the pandemic, I would also love to go to my local indoor bouldering gym to rock climb.

What got you interested in birds?
I became fascinated with birds after taking Ornithology and learning about the evolution and species diversity that existed. After taking my first birding trips in this class and watching my professor, Dr. David Moriarty, identify species by sound I was hooked. I was inspired to join my local chapter and aimed to become as skilled my professor.

Do you have a spark bird story?
On a field trip to the Morongo Canyon Preserve, Dr. Moriarty led us away from the main trail where we had done most of our birding over to an open baseball field. We waited and watched a metal chain-linked fence for a Vermilion Flycatcher. I was so surprised when, after waiting and watching the fence for over 20 minutes, he showed up and perched right on the part of fence we were watching. It was then that I realized how much dedication, skill, and patience bird watching took and I knew that I wanted to witness as much of this diversity as I could.

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