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Ciara Duncan


Bold Points






My ultimate goal in life is to become an avian veterinarian because I love birds and want to make sure they receive the best care available when they need it. I also enjoy volunteering with SARR (Southern Appalachian Raptor Research) by helping band birds and count raptors (hawks and eagles) to collect data for their conservation. One of my favorite pastimes is wildlife photography. Of course, birds are my favorite subjects. I could meander around the forest for hours taking in the beauty of nature and searching for that perfect picture.


Duncan Highlands Academy

High School
2005 - 2021
  • Majors:
    • Wildlife Biology
  • Minors:
    • Pre-Veterinary Studies


  • Desired degree level:

    Master's degree program

  • Majors of interest:

  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Avian Veterinarian

    • Dream career goals:

      To help bird owners provide the best care they can.

    • Volunteer Bird Bander and Data Recorder

      Southern Appalachian Raptor Research
      2015 – Present9 years


    Mixed Martial Arts

    2019 – Present5 years


    • Yellow belt
    • Orange belt
    • 1st degree Green belt
    • 2nd degree Green belt
    • Blue belt


    2016 – 20182 years


    • Asheville Trailblazer Award
    • Blazer Blast First Place
    • Blazer Blast Second Place


    • Wildlife, Fish and Wildlands Science and Management

      Blue Ridge Community College — Essay Writer
      2020 – 2021


    • Independent

      Western NC State Fair
      2005 – Present
    • Independent

      NC Wildlife photo contest
      2015 – Present

    Public services

    • Volunteering

      Southern Appalachian Raptor Research — Bird bander and data recorder.
      2015 – Present
    • Volunteering

      Brother Wolf Animal Rescue — Dog walker.
      2008 – 2009
    • Volunteering

      Blue Ridge Humane Society — Cat entertainer and petter.
      2018 – Present
    • Volunteering

      Linus Blanket Project — Blanket maker.
      2016 – 2016

    Future Interests



    Act Locally Scholarship
    Each fall, hundreds of hikers walk the deeply worn path of the Appalachian Trail. They follow each curve as it snakes across a lush valley, up a steep mountainside, through the occasional wind-swept grasses of a bald, and back down into another valley. This cycle is typically uneventful with through-hikers rarely seeing any other signs of human activity. That is until one hiker reaches Big Bald Mountain. At first glance, the area looks like every other bald seen on previous parts of the Appalachian Trail, but as he approaches the ridge, he notices something odd. Strange poles appear in narrow clearings in the trees, and only when he sees a small green and yellow bird struggling while suspended in the air between a pair of poles does he realize that they are supporting nearly invisible nets. As the hiker breaks out of the tree line onto the ridge-top meadow, he spots the obvious silhouette of an owl perched atop a taller pole and excitedly snaps a few pictures. Across the clearing, a pigeon suddenly flutters straight up into the air, only to immediately land again. A hawk dives after it a second later to land, entangled in a net before it reached the tethered pigeon. The hiker watches as a person quickly emerges from a hidden blind to retrieve the thrashing hawk. The confused hiker might be wondering what is going on here. While still puzzling over those spectacles, the hiker reenters the tree line only to come upon another interesting scene, a table covered in tools with two people sitting around it. One person is holding a bird and is in the process of looking at its wing. The other person is consulting a book full of bird diagrams while she marks boxes in a binder. As the hiker makes his way across the rest of the ridge, he meets another person heading his way holding small, brown paper bags. One of the bags rustles and chirps as they cross paths. Finally, the hiker leaves the strange area as he makes his way down the other side of Big Bald. These bizarre encounters cause the hiker to start wondering who those people were and what they were doing. Curious, he or she goes home to begin researching for answers. Today’s modern society is centered around science. Science consists of the collection of information in the form of facts and data. Who finds and compiles this information? Chemists, medical doctors, physicists, and mathematicians are usually the first few answers that come to mind. However, there is another career field that is also crucial to the advancement of science and is seldom thought of first, field biology. Field biologists (who used to be called “naturalists”) are among the most important data collectors for science. They have been helping humans understand the nature of Earth’s plants and animals that people rely on daily to live. Field biologists are usually the first to notice early signs of danger for a species’ existence and how it could affect human society. If field biology is so crucial for maintaining the balance of life, then why does it seem like this career path is not as popular as the more commonly seen science career choices? An exploration of a field biologist’s career requirements and characteristics is needed to determine the probable cause of disinterest. Field biology focuses on collecting data about wildlife straight from their natural habitats. Being able to know what and how to record correct information requires special skills. Mark Hopey, a field biologist currently specialized in wild birds, insisted that people planning to become a professional field biologist should acquire a four-year degree in biology, preferably a Master's as well, that relates to this career. PhDs are also fairly common. Other skills, such as learning how to correctly handle wild animals and operate equipment, are learned from working with experienced professionals as well as from personal experience in the field. Computers, radios, data programs, and other technology are important tools for field biologists. “…we’re basically doing very macro [data recording so] we don’t have any microscopes or anything like that. Binoculars, low tech” says Hopey, “we also use the GPS… and the computer in our pocket, phones, have changed field biology a lot.” Knowing how to drive a car is possibly the most useful skill in this career. Travel is a common part of field biology and it varies from a short walk from a tent and back to being dropped off in a remote area in Alaska for five months by plane. Both of which Hopey has experienced. For example, one of his colleagues “left [the bird-banding job] here, went to Argentina…worked there, …[then] went to Arizona and looked at Bald Eagles camping out for five months, and then came [back] here” he recounts. Personality type doesn’t really matter for this career, but since the majority of a field biologist’s work is out in the field and with a few co-workers, people considering this career should enjoy being outdoors and have at least some communication abilities. Unfortunately, this career usually offers low stability due to competition among limited project opportunities and funds. “If you have stability on your mind, then approach this job carefully” warns Hopey. Instability appears to be the largest reason for disinterest in this field. However, this could be avoided if working for more stable organizations such as state, federal, and national organizations. Hopey states, “If being outdoors and looking at animals closely and trying to understand then gives you excitement, or in other words, it motivates you to get out and do it rather than watching a video, then [field biology] would be a good career move.” Knowing about the growth, behavior patterns, and the status of creatures is advantageous to society because it can help humans find easier and more beneficial ways to live in this complicated web of life.
    Reputation Rhino Protection and Preservation of Wildlife and Nature Scholarship
    Every spring, millions of people wake up in the morning and see and hear a seemingly endless amount of different birds singing, making nests, and fluttering about in the trees. Birds are so bountiful that they are all taken for granted. However, every year the number of bird songs may become fewer and fewer, until one spring, the people might find themselves listening to a sad, empty, silence. Although this is an exaggerated example of extinction, this can and does happen at the species level. Sadly, with enough time and the right conditions, even the most common animals can be wiped out of existence. When this happens, people often ask, “What happened?” There are hundreds of reasons why animal species become extinct. The top causes of extinction appear to be habitat loss, disease, and overhunting. If humans took conservation more seriously, these three reasons would likely be erased. Habitat loss is the leading cause of animal extinctions produced by humans. Habitat loss occurs when the area an animal lives in is destroyed or altered so that they can’t live there anymore. Mass deforestation is an example of habitat destruction. Trees are cut down for countless reasons; to clear areas for agricultural use, to make paper products, to build frames for structures, to clear places for those structures, and for anything that has wood in its ingredients. Deforestation causes an animal’s natural shelters and food supply to become scarce because most of the trees and plants that provided them have been taken away. Without proper food and shelter, animals will either starve to death or try to find a new home. Another type of habitat loss is pollution. Air, soil and water pollution all can be extremely deadly to animals and their habitats. For example, toxic pesticide and fertilizer runoff from farms can be harm animals if it is absorbed through their food, water, or skin. This is a major threat to frogs and other mash-dwelling species because they spend most, if not all, of their lives water. It can also contaminate the soil and cause plants to die, leaving a majority of herbivores without food. Yet another type of habitat loss is caused by invasive species. Invasive species are any nonnative creatures or plants that have been introduced into an ecosystem and harm the native species. These invaders compete with the native species for food and space, often outnumbering the natives because there are no natural predators to keep their numbers in check. Burmese pythons are a great example of an invasive species. With its humid, grassy, wet, and warm climate, the Florida Everglades has become the perfect new home for these massive snakes. The unwelcome pythons have overrun Florida because people who couldn’t care for their scaly pets released them into the fragile Everglades environment. Ever since the first release, the snakes have been eating rare native birds and everything they can fit their mouths around. There are even some accounts of the pythons clashing with American alligators, who have just been brought back from near extinction. Although efforts have been made to eliminate the snakes, from capture and removal to all out-hunting contests, they have all ended up futile. The pythons have succeeded in their invasion and are here to stay. When there are new creatures, there are new diseases introduced along with them. Deadly diseases are another reason why a species can become extinct. When a new disease infects an unprepared species, it will often kill enormous numbers of that particular animal if it isn’t contained. Humans, again, can cause easily avoidable outbreaks in animals that can make them go extinct. The White Nose Syndrome is a perfect example of how a disease made American bat species at risk for extinction. European bats are mostly immune to this disease because they have had time to adapt to it over the years. After exploring an infected cave in Europe, cavers transported the fungus from their gear into American bat caves. Because American bats had never had the chance to become immune, they started to die at alarming rates. Luckily, conservationists stepped in to help stop the spread of the deadly White Nose Syndrome, but not before the number of bats in America dropped severely. Although not always caused by humans, disease outbreaks that have the potential to wipe out an entire species are usually a lot easier to prevent before they spread than after. Overhunting a specific species for food, profit, or just plain sport is one more major cause of extinction. Killing an animal species in large numbers will have an impact on the general population of that species over time, even if those animals appear plentiful. For example, passenger pigeons were so numerous in America a couple of hundred years ago that when they migrated, the sky would become black and noisy with the birds. People originally shot the passenger pigeons for food but, because there were so many, they started to shot them for sport without worrying about the repercussions. Soon, from the unregulated hunting, only a handful of the pigeons were left in the entire world. The extinction of the passenger pigeon became official when the last one died in a zoo. Another animal that is now on the doorstep of extinction from overhunting is the White Rhino. It was hunted almost to extinction by poachers who killed them just for their ivory horns. Only a couple of White Rhinos are left in the world and they are slowly approaching the same fate as the passenger pigeons unless a way to keep their species alive is discovered. Knowing why animals become extinct helps conservationists to understand what they can do to keep a species from becoming extinct. Every animal serves an important purpose, no matter how small. Preventing animals from going extinct may save Earth’s fragile circle of life. If people don’t succeed in conserving plant and animal species vital to human life, the more likely humans themselves will become extinct in the future.
    Great Outdoors Wilderness Education Scholarship
    It was a crisp mid-January morning and I was just beginning to go through emails on the living-room couch. Bam! I immediately recognized the sickening sound. Apprehension rose with each step as I hurried out to the backyard. My heart sank with dismay when I reached the ground below the guilty window. Underneath lay the limp body of a beautiful red-shouldered hawk with a bead of scarlet seeping from his beak. As the brisk breeze gently ruffled the auburn-tinged coverts, a brief movement caught my eye. Had he blinked? Adrenaline racing, I leaned in for a closer look. Relief washed over me as a dazed but alive yellow eye studied my face. Remembering my basic training from a recent wildlife summer camp, I ran back inside for supplies to secure the hawk. After unhooking a sharp talon out of my finger that had pierced through a previously unknown tear in one of my work-gloves, I lowered the now struggling, blanket-draped, raptor into a waiting box. As I left the injured hawk in the care of a nearby wildlife rehabilitation center called Wild For Life, I reflected on how much birds have influenced my life and career interests. Ever since I can remember, I have enjoyed watching birds come and go from our feeder. What fascinated me the most about birds was their unique gift of flight. There was something mysterious and magical about their ability to defy gravity with a few flaps of their specially designed wings. Unfortunately, that same gift also kept me from obtaining a closer look at them. One of my favorite ways to overcome this challenge was to visit zoo aviaries. I could sit captivated for hours admiring the variety of shapes, sizes, and colors of each exotic species as they casually strutted or flitted around me. Yet I still treasured the native wild birds and dreamed of interacting more closely with them. That dream finally came true when my family and I came across a bird banding station. During one of our hikes, we saw a table set just off the Appalachian Trail. Sitting at it was someone carefully examining a small bird. Curious, we stopped to ask what she was doing. After explaining that she was a field biologist capturing and recording data on area birds, she allowed me to release the now banded bird back to the wild. Since then, I have made it my goal to become a field ornithologist and have volunteered numerous times every fall to help them with activities such as counting migrating hawks, collecting birds from nets, and recording field data. Along the way, I learned about the importance of conservation efforts to protect these animals for future generations to enjoy. When I saw the injured hawk in my backyard, easing its pain was not my only reason for helping it. I believe every individual matter when trying to keep a species off the endangered list. A few months after the incident, when I had almost given up on what had become of the red-shouldered hawk, the rehabilitation center called to say he was ready to be released. Once home with the repackaged and recovered bird, we gathered our neighbors and close friends to witness his return to the wild. As soon as the hawk saw the light, he exploded out of the box in a flurry of wings, flew around a tree, and disappeared. The occasional sharp call of a red-shouldered hawk piercing through my neighborhood serves as a reminder that he is living freely in his home as intended. Every close encounter with these magical creatures has further strengthened my conviction to pursue an ornithology-related career. I hope to aid in spreading knowledge to others about conservation and solve the mysteries of these unique feathered creatures.
    Creative Expression Scholarship