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Big Muddy NFWR gets a breath of fresh air
Midwest Region, August 15, 2009
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Big Muddy STEP employee Amanda Noel and CIP employees Ashley Gauss and Wing-Yi Kung take a boat ride on the Missouri River to view different land tracts of the refuge. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
Big Muddy STEP employee Amanda Noel and CIP employees Ashley Gauss and Wing-Yi Kung take a boat ride on the Missouri River to view different land tracts of the refuge. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo) - Photo Credit: n/a
STEP employee Amanda Noel checks traffic counter data at the Overtons Bottom unit before analyzing the data back in the office. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
STEP employee Amanda Noel checks traffic counter data at the Overtons Bottom unit before analyzing the data back in the office. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo) - Photo Credit: n/a
Bailey Yotter, STEP employee, sprays noxious weeds on the refuge. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
Bailey Yotter, STEP employee, sprays noxious weeds on the refuge. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo) - Photo Credit: n/a
Term employee Irene Miller and STEP employee Emily Magrowski hold up turtles found after setting traps to survey a scour on the Overton Bottoms unit. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
Term employee Irene Miller and STEP employee Emily Magrowski hold up turtles found after setting traps to survey a scour on the Overton Bottoms unit. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo) - Photo Credit: n/a

Big Muddy NFWR had many young faces on board this summer. The refuge had the privilege of hiring one term employee, three Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) employees and two Conservation Internship Program (CIP) employees for 2009. The recruits, all female, came from a variety of different backgrounds. Together, they worked throughout the summer to help manage the refuge while gaining valuable experience and forming new friendships.

Maryland native, Irene Miller was hired as a biological science technician for a one year term. Fresh out of her graduate program at Auburn University in Alabama, Miller’s first assignment was to lead an invasive plant crew for Big Muddy during the summer. Her crew consisted of STEP employees Emily Magrowski, a Lincoln University student originally from Osage County and Bailey Yotter, a University of Missouri-Columbia student from Southeast Iowa.

The three employees teamed up in an attempt to win the battle over invasive plant species such as Johnson grass, Purple Loosestrife, Japanese Hops and Garlic Mustard. These and other noxious weeds have been choking out native species on the refuge, reducing biodiversity and therefore destroying ideal fish and wildlife habitat.

The crew made their routes regularly to each unit, spraying herbicides and occasionally mowing the unruly plants. “Like ‘the Blob,’ Japanese Hops and Johnson Grass consume everything in their path,” jokes Magrowski after a long summer of spraying weeds.

While the invasive plant crew slaved away, two CIP employees Ashley Gauss and Wing-Yi Kung were led by Refuge Biologist Wedge Watkins to assist the Missouri Master Naturalists program with the first year of a three year study on native bees. In addition, ponds and scours on the refuge units were surveyed for fish, amphibian and reptile species.

The two interns lodged at a cabin located on the Overton Bottoms North Unit Loesing Tract throughout the summer. Gauss, a Lincoln University student and a St. Louis native, and Kung a graduate of SUNY in Binghamton from Queens, New York had never met each other prior to their internship. Both girls agree that their living situation took some getting used to, but were pleased with the overall experience.

Gauss and Kung also got a chance to visit the Region 3 headquarters in Minnesota and attend a conference with other CIP, STEP and SCEP employees from different refuges. “The conference provided an opportunity to look further into what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service is all about,” explains Gauss. While at the conference, Gauss and Kung met many students from across the country and were able to share their experiences working with the USFWS with one another.

Back in the office, Refuge Park Ranger Tim Haller educated his STEP employee, Amanda Noel, in visitor information, outreach and the Missouri Junior Duck Stamp program. Noel is a Columbia College student from Hannibal, Mo. She aspires to attend graduate school in hopes to become an environmental journalist. “This internship has opened a lot of doors for me,” says Noel. “I had no idea there were so many opportunities for me to work for the Fish and Wildlife Service with an environmental journalism degree.”

Noel plans on attending graduate school at the University of Colorado in Boulder which is nearby the regional office in Denver. “There’s a possibility that I might be able to work in the Denver external affairs office which I may have never known about if it weren’t for working at Big Muddy,” says Noel.

Over the summer, the six young ladies have grown close working amongst one another. “Not only have I acquired valuable work experience at the refuge, I’ve made some great friends that I might not have met otherwise,” says Noel. “It’s like a breath of fresh air being able to converse with people who share the same passion about the outdoors as you do. We’ve learned a lot from one another and I hope we continue to stay in touch and bond after our summer term is over.”

Being from all different backgrounds, each temporary employee was able to bring their own personal experience and knowledge to the table. As a result, Big Muddy was able to make much progress on managing the refuge and gain fresh insight that can be used to benefit the refuge in the future.


Contact Info: Tim Haller, 573-441-2799, tim_haller@fws.gov



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