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Introducing the Fellows!

Megan Soldatke (left), Matt Urbanski (right)- Photographs by Amy Sandeen

Megan Soldatke (left), 
Matt Urbanski (right) 
Photographs by Amy Sandeen


Who We Are
Hi, I am Matt Urbanski, the Crane Trust’s new Saunders Conservation Fellow! Today I will be introducing you to Megan Soldatke, Lila O. Wilson Biological Monitoring Fellow and myself. 


Megan is from Lincoln, NE and recently graduated from University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources with a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife. She is ready for small mammal surveys, to learn more about the practical aspects of monitoring programs, and to understand how those programs are used to preserve the landscape. By the time Megan leaves she wants to have gained practical knowledge on conservation and settle on a fitting career path.

I am from Omaha, NE and also graduated recently, with a degree in Wildlife Biology from Hastings College. I am excited to grow my knowledge in the collection of data, use of scientific research, and communication of science through various media outlets. Oh, and fish surveys! By the end of my fellowship I want to leave the Crane Trust being a more competent scientist and media producer. 


What We Do
Throughout our year here we will learn how the Crane Trust uses long term monitoring to assess the health of Nebraska’s native habitat and to answer important conservation focused questions. By being fellows here we will take part in conducting surveys on breeding birds, vegetation, frogs and toads, butterfly species of concern, small mammals, fish, bison health, Whooping Cranes, and Greater Prairie Chickens. We will also gain an insider’s perspective on all that goes into a Crane Season with the Crane Trust by assisting in general duties and community engagement during March 2024.

Through these experiences we will learn multiple skills and techniques including: 

  • Point count surveys
  • Call index surveys
  • Passive monitoring using acoustic recorders and trail cameras
  • Transect surveys
  • Sherman box trapping
  • Behavioral monitoring
  • The collection and processing of bison biometric data
  • The use of taxonomic keys to identify various species
  • Pressing plants 
  • Recording groundwater depth data with the use of digital transducers
  • Data organization and management

All the data we collect can later be used for calculating species diversity, abundance, how we need to change land management tactics, and more in order to preserve the Big Bend area of the Platte River.

Distinctions Between Positions  

Megan will have more responsibilities in regards to scientific communication, while I will have more focus on conservation storytelling.


She will be learning the process of scientific publication, which is made up of data collection, literature reviews, data analysis, and manuscript writing. Making use of sites designed to find scholarly literature, spending lots of time reading, and sharpening her scientific writing skills.

I will be documenting my fellowship and sharing the story of conservation in the Central Platte River Valley with you. Through the Crane Trust’s Blogs, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube I will share my experiences, knowledge gained from the Crane Trust’s science team, and stories of what we are doing to protect the habitat, animals, and plants located around the Big Bend of the Platte. 

I am excited to take you along on this journey of new experiences and learning at the Crane Trust! 


I’ll see you in the next blog,

Matt Urbanski, Saunders Conservation Fellow