It was Korinna’s experience with a snow leopard at the San Diego Zoo that started it all.
“It came towards me, stopped right in front of me,” says Korinna. “It looked me straight in the eye and let out something like a deep ‘meow.’ It was one of those moments when I felt I had transcended everything—I saw myself in the snow leopard’s eyes, felt empathy for it.” In that moment, Korinna knew she had found her true passion
Since graduating from OFY in 2010, Korinna had been working as a hair and makeup stylist, hoping to break into the entertainment industry. But after her experience with the leopard, she soon enrolled in Santa Monica College to begin her path to a new career. As a first-generation college student, she struggled to support herself financially, splitting her time between working a full time job and studying into the early morning. But her hard work paid off and she will transfer to Humboldt State to study Wildlife Management and Conservation in the fall.
Korinna did not want to wait till she was a student at Humboldt to do more in-depth research, so she took the advice of a lab-tech and started seeking out internship opportunities. “After reaching out to countless organizations, scientists, and citizen scientists working in the field, I had no luck. Some didn’t have the space to bring me on; most didn’t reply. So I started my own undergraduate research project.”
Korinna designed a study that took into account her interests as well as her environment—studying carnivores, large and small, in the mountains of her hometown of Burbank. Specifically, her goal was to estimate carnivore densities in the Verdugo Mountains and how ambient temperature or ambient light affects their movement and activity, while gauging people’s attitudes toward carnivores around the area via surveys.
Korinna approached Adrine Ovasapyan and Brian Pucio of the Stough Canyon Nature Center with her idea, both of whom were ecstatic with Korinna’s project and agreed to sponsor her. Once Korinna received approval of the project from the city of Burbank (the land is owned by the city), she set to work crowdfunding the necessary materials for her research, namely a special camera that uses no-glow infrared LED technology to capture wildlife in the dead of night.
With the help of Adrine and Brian, Korinna planted her camera in on a game trail animals use often to traverse the mountain. So far her research is proving to be very successful and beneficial! “Working with the Stough Canyon Nature Center allows me to bring the community into my research. For example, they had anticipated that Gray Foxes lived in that environment, but it wasn't until my camera captured a video of a Gray Fox that confirmed this information. So it's really exciting for not only myself, but for the center and all of the students and citizens who benefit from the knowledge.”
Korinna shares many of the images and videos she captures through her research, along with information regarding wildlife conservation, on her blog. You can read more about Korinna’s work in SMC In Focus and donate to her research here.