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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

High-Schoolers, Teacher Learn about Wildlife Forensics

 Ms. Laske's class watches the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory webcast.

Letitia Laske, a biology teacher at Brainerd High School in Brainerd, Minnesota, calls herself “a true newcomer to wildlife forensics.”

She needed to come up with a new elective course for her students, many of whom are avid hunters, trappers and anglers, and says in an email, “wildlife forensics is the one that stuck.”

Originally, she thought of forensics because she had some experience there. But she “wanted to pair the idea of forensics with wildlife conservation.”


Federal Wildlife Officer Recognized for Excellence

Samantha Fleming
Federal Wildlife Officer Samantha Fleming with hunter Christian Wilder. Photo by Bill O'Brian/USFWS

Our dedicated employees are the people who, often with very little fanfare, make conservation happen. One of  them is Samantha Fleming, a Federal Wildlife Officer at Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland who was recently recognized as the 2014 Northeast Region Refuge Officer of the Year for her outstanding law enforcement service and for her wiliness to lead projects that extend beyond her duties. 

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Recognizing Women’s Vital Contributions to Wildlife Conservation

Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson continues to inspire.

March is recognized as Women’s History Month, and when it comes to making history in wildlife conservation, women have and will continue to make powerful contributions. This is no surprise. But more just a time to celebrate history, this month can serve as a reminder to girls everywhere that they don't have to merely be spectators in science and conservation. History gives them many mentors. Danielle Brigida, National Social Media Manager, takes a moment to highlight some incredible wildlife women of then and now.


The Call of the Weird

boy and scorpion
A young visitor peers at a live scorpion inside glass at Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. In an unusual refuge event, participants use UV lights to find the creatures at night. Photo by USFWS
A scorpion glows under UV light at Ash Meadows Refuge in Nevada. Photo by USFWS

Nothing against birding or nature touring, but sometimes even die-hard nature enthusiasts want to break out of the mold and try something a bit more offbeat. We know the feeling. Consider these wild and wooly events some national wildlife refuges have planned this spring.

For instance, at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge and Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge, both in Nevada, you can search for scorpions at night, with the aid of only an ultraviolet flashlight, your wildlife detective skills and an expert guide. Look out: Night may impairyour vision; not so for the nocturnal scorpion. But you have an advantage, too: Under UV light, scorpions glow a fluorescent blue. 

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Our Science Women: Conserving the Nature of America and Beyond

Amanda Pollock

Throughout the month of March, our regions have celebrated Women’s History Month by uploading “trading cards” of just a few of the “Science Women” we have working for us. They work in jobs you’d expect from the Fish and Wildlife Service, lots of -ist jobs – biologist, ecologist, hydrologist – and others like refuge manager, ranger, wildlife inspector and federal wildlife officer. But you can also find a museum curator, an accessibility coordinator and an administrative officer. What unites these women – as well as everyone at the Service – is a dedication to the wild things and wild places that make up the world.

As Women’s History Month winds down, we remember Mollie Beattie, Mardy Murie and other conservation heroes for their history-making lives. And we salute all women working to make the world a better place.

Don't Forget to Pick your Favorite National Wildlife Refuge

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma provides habitat for large native grazing animals. More than 50 mammal, 240 bird, 64 reptile and amphibian, 36 fish, and 806 plant species thrive on this important refuge. It exists to ensure that wildlife once native to the Wichita Mountains remain on the landscape. Bison, elk, wild turkey, river otters, burrowing owls and prairie dogs have been reintroduced to the refuge.

Its plethora of species seems to have won over voters. It leads in USA TODAY's poll to pick your favorite National Wildlife Refuge.

Learn More and VOTE. Voting ends on Monday, March 30 at noon ET.  View the standings.

Photo Essay: Exploring the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway

Blackwater NWR
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS

The tale of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad is revered as one of the most influential moments in the emancipation of slaves in the United States. As the birthplace of Tubman, the Eastern Shore of Maryland holds a rich history in its expansive farm fields, quaint settlements and wetlands that nestle into the crooks and creeks of the Chesapeake Bay. A former intern in our Northeast Region put together this rich photo essay about Tubman and the rich history of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, including Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. 

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Grant Program Helps Wood Bison Return to Wilds of Alaska

Wood bison
A wood bison eats straw. Photo by Rose Primmer/USFWS

Earlier this month, our State Wildlife Grant (SWG) Program provided more than $45 million in funding for state efforts to protect species and habitats in greatest need of conservation. More than $2.0 million went to Alaska, including more than $680,000 for work to reintroduce the threatened wood bison to Alaska.

The work, ongoing for more than 10 years, is at a key stage. On Sunday, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game started flying wood bison from the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Anchorage to the village of Shageluk in the Lower Innoko/Yukon Rivers area.


Angela James’ Love of Outdoors Feeds off ‘Enthusiasm, Optimism and Eagerness' of Kids

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service
Angela James
Angela Palacios James prepares for the release of native fih.

Angela Palacios James, a Fish Biologist with New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has three broad job duties: fish culture, field work and outreach. Her job varies widely depending on the time of year, but most mornings start with a round of feeding the fish at the office, cleaning tanks and ensuring the tank systems are functioning properly. Currently, they are caring for endangered Colorado pikeminnow for a research project and various Middle Rio Grande fish species for the Native Fish in the Classroom (NFIC) program. In NFIC, students raise native fish in their classroom while learning about ecology, biology, conservation and socio-economic issues regarding water resources.

During the spring, Angela spends a lot of time running the NFIC program. “I am out on the Rio Grande collecting fish and preparing fish for students. Or I am preparing for activities, presentations and field days for the NFIC classrooms or other outreach events as they arise. This includes answering calls from teachers and making last-minute runs to schools when something may be wrong with their fish or tank systems.”


Finding Nature in the City with Houston Kids

Practicing anglers
Houston kids practice casting. 
SCA logo

Open Spaces is featuring monthly posts by Student Conservation Association (SCA) interns working to promote, protect and study wildlife on public lands all over the United States. Since 1957, SCA has been connecting young people from all backgrounds with life-changing, career-making conservation service opportunities. Learn how you can get involved at www.thesca.org. Today, Morgan Cotter, who has been hard at work as an SCA Urban Initiative intern in Houston, Texas, checks in.

When people think of Houston, Texas they might think “Concrete Jungle,” or “Land of Big Oil” or “That place you call when you have an issue with your Spacecraft” (Apollo 13 anyone?), but most people don’t jump straight to “Large metropolitan area teeming with accessible green spaces.” I have to admit that as a recent Houston transplant myself, I definitely had a lot to learn about everything this city has to offer in the way of outdoor recreation.

  After a lesson about bats, the kids in the Houston Parks and Rec Community Centers colored pictures of Mexican free-tailed bats.

As  SCA interns for the Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership in Houston, Kaitlyn Waid and I have one main goal: get local kids outside and engaged with nature in their own communities. We want to help them understand the connection between the little pockets of green space in their city and the amazing national wildlife refuges just outside of town. Many of the kids who participate in our program lack the resources to travel far beyond city limits, but they do have access to the trees, fields, birds, bayous, insects and more at the Houston Parks and Recreation Community Centers. 

The kids we work with are so excited to learn that they’re never far from nature. It’s a lot of fun to watch them play and interact with the outdoors in ways that they may not have considered before. One activity that they’re particularly fond of is a fishing game that helps them practice casting for an upcoming Fishing Rodeo. As soon as the kids see the fishing poles they’re eager to use them, so they offer enthusiastic answers to our pre-casting questions about their previous fishing experience. Some of them are worse than sailors when it comes to tall tales, but it’s always fun hearing about that one time a 7-year-old caught a shark with his bare hands. I gotta say, I was pretty impressed by that one...


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