How to look at the world like an environmental scientist

How to look at the world like an environmental scientist

Misti Sporer takes us into the woods and behind the scenes

If it slithers, scurries or flurries, Misti Sporer is looking for it. She’s an environmental scientist at Duke Energy where she tromps through woods to help the company protect wildlife near power plants, substations and other sites.

Her specialty is birds, but she can spot pretty much any critter.

Within minutes of walking into a forest in Great Falls, S.C., Sporer spotted several species including frogs, snakes and wasps, which led her to believe that bats are nearby. She scanned the trees and checked out the ones with peeling bark because, she said, bats can live under the lifted bark in openings as skinny as your cellphone.

She has spent her career learning what to look for – rustling leaves, trodden grasses, and, usually, poop – she likens it to shoe shopping. If you know you’re looking for a red stiletto, you scan for red and high heels.

“If you don’t see it, you move on,” she said, “If you see shoestrings or laces, you know you’ve found something else.”

In environmental assessments as in shoe shopping, sometimes Sporer has a list of things to look for, and sometimes she just goes browsing.

Sporer took over Duke Energy’s Instagram on Aug. 16 so followers could see highlights of her day as she inspected for potential wildlife risks at a new recreational area near Fishing Creek Hydro Station. If you missed the takeover, here’s a recap.


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