This Job is for the Birds

Andre Raine, a 1993 Bermuda Program alum, is the project coordinator for the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, which focuses on three species of endangered seabirds found on the island of Kauai: Newell’s shearwater, the Hawaiian petrel, and the Band-rumped storm petrel. Much of his work involves identifying the breeding distribution of these seabirds, monitoring their breeding colonies, and working with project partners to ensure long-term conservation. (Photo credit: Tom Fowlks, editorial photographer).

One of the most rewarding aspects of running a decades-long education program is following up with former students to learn where their experiences have taken them, both personally and professionally.

The Bermuda Program, now in its 43rd year, offers Bermudian students ages 18 and older the opportunity to work on research projects in marine and atmospheric sciences alongside BIOS scientists in both field and laboratory settings. More than 150 students have taken part in this program, including André Raine, 44, who spent the summer of 1993 as a Bermuda Program intern before beginning his senior year at Saltus Grammar School.

The birds’ habitat includes remote and steep mountains and valleys, typified by the landscape shown here in the Hono o Na Pali Natural Area Reserve on the island of Kauai. As a result, Raine and his colleagues often rely on helicopters to reach management sites. Here, in the Hono o Na Pali Natural Area Reserve, they conduct investigations into the burrowing behaviors of the Newell’s shearwater and Hawaiian petrel using cameras and acoustic monitoring devices. (Photo credit: Tom Fowlks, editorial photographer).

In 1996, Raine graduated from the University of Guelph in Canada with an undergraduate degree in wildlife biology. He then enrolled in the University College of London in England, where he focused his thesis on the Bermuda skink as part of his graduate degree in conservation, which was awarded in 1998. In 2006, Raine obtained his doctoral degree from the University of East Anglia in England where he conducted research on a red-listed, or endangered, species of finch, known as the “twite.”

Today, Raine is the project coordinator for the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project in Kauai, Hawaii. We recently had a chance to catch up and ask about his current job, as well as the path he took to get where he is today.

What sparked your interest in science?
Raine: I spent my summers swimming and snorkeling off St. David's, where I lived at the time. My parents always took us on trips abroad where we got to experience nature and wildlife in different countries. I've never considered working in any other field. It is what I love to do.

How did you hear about the Bermuda Program and what was the experience like for you?
Raine: My parents mentioned the program to me and, because of my life-long interest in nature, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to expand my knowledge of the marine world. I enjoyed working alongside researchers and with my peers. Participating in the Bermuda Program certainly helped further my interest in science and the natural world, all part of the journey to where I am today.

What does your current role at the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Center entail?
Raine: We focus on Kauai's three endangered seabirds: the Newell's shearwater, the Hawaiian petrel, and the Band-rumped storm petrel. We carry out research on these species to understand the threats they face, how to reverse these threats, and then we work with land managers to conserve their remaining populations. As a direct result of human impacts, these populations have all declined dramatically in recent decades, and they are only found in the Hawaiian islands. So if they disappear from here, they are gone for good.  

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job?
Raine: I like knowing that the work I’m doing is making a real difference to these special birds. They are facing a lot of challenges, particularly collisions with power lines and the impact of introduced predators, such as cats, but we are in a position to reverse their decline. They are challenging because they are nocturnal and their habitat is restricted to remote and steep mountains and valleys on the island. The challenge makes the job even more interesting.

Do you have any advice for undergraduate students who might be interested in following a similar career path?
Raine: If you have something you really care about or are passionate about, then go for it. Research your options thoroughly, understand what you need to study in order to become an expert in your chosen career, volunteer with organizations who focus on similar projects, and read about current research so you are always up to date on recent developments. Education is key. I'd recommend going for at least a master’s degree and, ideally, onward to a PhD. It all gives you the tools and life experiences you need to get a job in the field that you love.