I still remember the first time we hired Eric Chabot as a “seasonal” field biologist, back in March 2012, to help on a Golden Eagle nest monitoring project in Utah’s West Desert. That first time we hired Eric stands out in my mind because Eric wasn’t your traditional seasonal. He had a bachelor’s degree in economics and he was currently working as a snowboard instructor at Mt. Baker. He did have climbing experience and an eclectic background, including some field work, work as an EMT, and teaching undergraduate economics and statistics courses. At the time, HawkWatch International’s eagle research was entering a phase that required cliff nest entries, and what Eric may have lacked in raptor monitoring and handling experience in those early days, he more than made up for with his rope skills.
That first season set the trend for our relationship with Eric; he quickly learned on the job or taught himself whatever skills necessary to make himself a valuable asset. Eric was hired back for seasonal eagle work again in 2013. Then in the winter of 2014, he suggested to me that he could come out a month early before the next eagle field season began, and spend some time in our office teaching himself GIS (Geographic Information System; a means of mapping data and understanding spatial relationships). GIS is an oft-used tool in the wildlife field, and this strategic move on Eric’s part made him even more useful to our work. Not surprisingly, Eric worked himself into a full-time job before very long!
Eric didn’t rest after securing that full-time gig, either. He continued to prove himself an invaluable team member and never stopped learning new skills. Before long, Eric was helping us produce models of potential raptor migration pathways in the West, assisting with report writing, conducting helicopter surveys, and even authoring his first peer-reviewed scientific paper. His first paper was on Golden Eagle detection during fall ridge counts, which is now used by the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the wind industry to help assess potential wind development sites. He also helped us oversee a major monitoring effort at a wind farm, got involved with fall migration set-up, trapping, and education, and continued to improve our rope safety systems.
I could go on and on! Instead, let me wrap up by saying that Eric was also so much more than an incredibly gifted person and team player. He was also someone I’d look forward to spending long days with in a truck, in the desert, or on an overnight field excursion. Suffice it to say, Eric will be greatly missed here at HawkWatch. We know he will continue to grow and excel in his new position, as a GIS specialist at Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. We offer you a very heartfelt thank you, and wish you the best of luck, Eric!
Conservation Science Director