Cross Program Training - Fisheries Helping Refuges
BY SAM FINNEY, CARTERVILLE FWCO
When the Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was established, it was done so in part to aid the recovery of an endangered fish- the pallid sturgeon. I guess then it stands to reason that a fish biologist would make a good pinch hitter as a refuge manager for such a refuge, and that is exactly what I was fortunate enough to do in a recent work detail.
Between the summer months of July and August, I spent 30 days along the middle Mississippi River (the section between Cairo, Illinois and St Louis, Missouri) helping out in any ways I was needed. Being a small refuge (a little over 8,000 acres) and having a small core staff (about 2-3 people), work at the refuge for all staff members can be described as “varied”. Traditional roles for biologists, mangers, and other personnel at a “typical” refuge go out the window as everyone must chip in to get all things accomplished. For a fellow from the fisheries program that is interested in getting to know life in refuges, this is a good thing. While I was on duty I performed tasks that ran the gamut from replacing damaged refuge signs to banding wood ducks, from approving credit card statements to working on habitat management plans, from budget conference calls to mowing grass. Yes, I got to see it all.
During my detail assignment at Middle Mississippi River NWR I hoped to learn about the day in day out work at a refuge, assist refuge staff with my knowledge of fish and fisheries, learn from refuge staff about terrestrial, plant and wildlife management, and assist the staff in whatever ways I could to help keep them moving while their staff was diminished. Between polishing the fish and aquatic related portions of refuge documents, assisting refuge staff with about every possible thing imaginable, and shadowing refuge staff to learn all that I could about ducks, deer, trees, moist soil plants and the like, I would say that my goals were met. Refuge staff were also appreciative of the extra set of hands to keep things afloat. As a wonderful added bonus, I made life long personal and professional friends and connections at the refuge and elsewhere within the refuge system. My office, Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, is also now working with refuge staff more closely on pallid sturgeon management and recovery. I’d say- Mission Accomplished!