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Growing up, Danielle Belleny was “always outdoors, messing with plants and picking up bugs,” she told TIME for Kids. “I wanted to be a veterinarian, at first. I always knew I wanted to work with animals. That was the only job I knew where you could do that.” When Belleny was in college, her dad mentioned wildlife biology. That was an alternative to veterinary school.
Later, Belleny started working on research projects. She spent a lot of time with animals in their natural environment. One project involved placing trackers on a bird called the northern bobwhite. For another, she spent time herding goats. It was a way to maintain a grass habitat for endangered box turtles without hurting them.
Belleny’s current job is at Plateau Land & Wildlife Management, in Hays County, Texas. She surveys birds. She keeps track of different species. And she searches for signs of what other animals in the area are doing. “It’s basically knowing how to read the landscape,” she says, “based on what plants and different characteristics are there.”
Around lunchtime, she’ll return home and write up a report. In the afternoon, she leaves for another site visit. Landowners can request her services. She advises people on how to accommodate the wildlife that lives on their property. “[It’s] a lot of meeting new people, a lot of quick introductions, and then talking for long periods of time.”
Outside of work, Belleny has been birding, or bird-watching, for seven years. Her first book, This Is a Book for People Who Love Birds, was published in May. It allowed her to share her love of the activity. Now she’s working on a children’s book about birding. It’s scheduled to come out in fall 2023.
Belleny has some advice for young people who are thinking about careers. “Try everything you’re interested in.” And if you’re interested in working with animals, “Go to a library and find some field guides.” There’s a lot of information about animals out there. Books are always a good place to start.