In today's post, we have a guest blogger as our part of our new series on New Service Voices: Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex Assistant Refuge Manager, Keenan Adams. Keenan has been with the Service since 2008 when he served as a Refuge Operations Specialist. Keenan holds an M.S. degree in Forest Resources from Clemson University and a PhD in Wildlife Biology from Clemson University. At Clemson, he concentrated his work on human dimensions of forest/wildlife management and land ethic.
Every morning on my commute to work, I watch the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean as I drive south on a coastal highway that overlooks Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. Sometimes, on my way home, I'll take a detour to Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuges’ centennial trail to watch the sun set over Indian River Lagoon. In the period between sun-up and sun-down, there may have been close to three hundred sea turtles laying eggs on our refuge.
Seriously, how cool is that?
I can't help but feel a little guilty about how much I like my job. I've been blessed with the opportunity to work for the US Fish and Wildlife Service and I feel like one the luckiest people in the world. Honestly, and don't tell my supervisor this, I'd do it for free. Why? Because I believe in our mission. I also believe that my love for working for the Service is one shared by all of our employees.
While alike in our passion and commitment, my story--how I was able to find myself sitting along the Indian River Lagoon at sunset--is somewhat unique when compared to other refuge managers. I come from an urban environment and I’m ethnically diverse. While unique today, tomorrow my story will be much more common in the Service. Like me, the manager of the future will come from a more urban or suburban environment than the refuge managers of the past.
This raises a few important questions.
What will these new manager's conservation ethic be like? Did they find the beauty in nature during their childhood in a city or in the mazes of suburbia? Whatever their beliefs or background, I can tell you from experience that their love of the natural world will inspire them to do great things on behalf of our agency and our mission. In addition to bringing new approaches and ideas to managing wildlife, their diversity will help them connect with people from diverse walks of life, no matter what their socio-economical, cultural, and geographical backgrounds.
Aerial view of Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex. CREDIT: USFWS
So here is my recommendation: just as the flora and fauna adapts to environmental changes over time, our agency must adapt to the changing environmental, social, and political changes while still holding true to our mission. This will require managers to possess great interpersonal skills, a craft that can be learned. A craft that will have to be passed down to the new generation of refuge managers from our leadership.
That sort of mentoring has been critical to me. I've been lucky in that a cadre of wildlife professionals have supported my development. People like Dr. Travis Perry, Dr. Drew Lanham, Dr. Betty Baldwin, Lyne Askins, Maury Bedford, Charlie Pelizza, and David Viker, have all helped me to become a better manager, a better communicator, and a better person.
So thanks. I have to get back to work pretty soon which, on a sunny day like today, sounds pretty great.