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A Talk on the Wild Side.

‘Today’ Show Visits Our Forensics Lab

Forensics Lab
FWS forensic ornithologist Pepper Trail compares evidence items to samples from the lab's standards reference collection to confirm species identification. Photo credit: USFWS

Morning-show viewers got an inside look at our lab in Oregon, “the only full-service wildlife crime lab,” as lab Director Ken Goddard told Today. The show featured some of the cutting-edge work done at the lab to help prosecution of animal-related crimes.

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service: Kim Strassburg

Soul River
Kids check out some wildlife at Tualatin's Soul River event. When we asked Kim for photos, she said she is always the one behind the camera, so she sent some of her work. Credit: USFWS

Kim Strassburg, the visitor services manager at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon, has been a key player in the ground-up development of visitor facilities, the opening of the refuge to the public, and an integrated education, recreation and volunteer program designed to engage urban people in the outdoors. Kim says her primary duty is to coordinate good people to do good things, which is what she is best at. Her reward comes from looking out the window and seeing wide-eyed youngsters participating in volunteer-led programs, hearing many different languages spoken at the annual Tualatin River Bird Festival, making new connections with community organizations who share common goals, and hiring young adults and nurturing up and coming conservation professionals. Like many Service employees, her day is anything but typical. In the morning, she might call the plumber (got to keep those public facilities working!), then she might work on a funding proposal and finally she might spend time outdoors helping folks experience nature. 

5 questions for Kim 

1. Did you grow up in a city? If so, where, and what enabled you to develop a connection with nature? If not, why is urban outreach important to you?

I grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and Indianapolis, Indiana. My connection to nature started as a young child. I have memories of: catching bluegill at the local reservoir (which also provided city drinking water); catching bugs and frogs in my backyard, which backed up the interstate highway; and catching grief from elementary schools teachers when they found out I had brought praying mantises and earthworms into the classroom after recess.  

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Artist Pays Tribute to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The Gift of the Arctic Refuge by Homer artist Rika Mouw is a handmade box that unfolds and contains a necklace of handmade paper birds, with each bird carrying a different quotation on its wings from those who campaigned for the establishment of the Arctic Refuge. The birds are strung on sinew and are clasped with a piece of carved caribou bone. The gift box is lined inside with the text of the Land Order that established the Arctic Refuge in 1960. Rika Mouw's piece has been selected for display at the Secretary of Interior's office in Washington, DC.

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service: Tamara Johnson

Tamara Johnson
Tamara Johnson (bottom, right) works with a high school to bring the students closer to nature. Credit: USFWS

Tamara Johnson works as the energy biologist in the Georgia Ecological Services Field Office in Athens. Along with overseeing renewable energy projects, she gets to do recovery work with aquatic invertebrates and environmental outreach throughout Georgia.

5 Questions for Tamara

1. Did you grow up in a city? If so, where, and what enabled you to develop a connection with nature? If not, why is urban outreach important to you?

I grew up in a suburb of Atlanta, in a house surrounded by trees and lots of wildlife. Being homeschooled for several years allowed me to make my classroom the outdoors many days, where I enjoyed catching caterpillars and lizards. This unstructured outdoor time was where my appreciation for wildlife was born. 

2. How did you keep a connection to nature while living in an urban area?

Growing up on the edge of a major city meant that an urban setting and a more natural setting were not mutually exclusive; I could appreciate any green space that was available, whether it was a tree-lined neighborhood street or watching squirrels fight over acorns on a college campus. Engaging with urban nature helped me relish the even more natural areas that were not as readily accessible, while still valuing all of the wildlife found within the city limits. 

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Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service: Akimi King

Akimi King
Connecting people with nature, Akimi King bands ducks with summer high school interns at Tule Lake  National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: USFWS

Akimi King is a Fish and Wildlife Biologist at the Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife Office in Oregon. She has a blast working on the Service’s Schoolyard Habitat and Connecting People with Nature programs. 

5 questions for Akimi

1. Did you grow up in a city? If so, where, and what enabled you to develop a connection with nature? If not, why is urban outreach important to you? 
I grew up in the big city of Los Angeles, California.  My parents were instrumental in making my connection with nature through Girl Scouts, summer vacations, fishing, camping, hiking, and dirt-bike riding (before I knew better, in fragile desert and coastal habitats).

2. How did you keep a connection to nature while living in an urban area? 
Neighborhood parks (catching tadpoles, frogs, lizards, fish, snakes, insects), gardening with my grandparents (seeing the importance of pollinators in our kitchen garden), my backyard (where I dug a pond to keep the fish), my back porch where I had a dozen terrariums for all the creatures I caught), and school (where a teacher incubated chicken eggs and I got to take home a chick, year after year.  She also raised silk worms and we walked several blocks daily to collect mulberry leaves). 

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Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service: Jennifer Owen-White

Jennifer Owen-White
Jennifer Owen-White shares her love of wildlife with members of the Youth Conservation Corps. Credit: USFWS

Jennifer Owen-White is the first refuge manager for Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the first official urban wildlife refuge in the Southwest. For now, Jennifer is the refuge’s only employee, which means she does everything from planning outdoor experiences to meeting the refuge community to writing lots of reports.

5 questions for Jennifer

1. Did you grow up in a city? If so, where, and what enabled you to develop a connection with nature? If not, why is urban outreach important to you?

I was born in Chicago and grew up in Houston. As a kid I found my love for wildlife, especially reptiles and amphibians, by catching frogs and snakes in the bayous behind my house. I also found my love for interpretation and sharing my passion for wildlife in those same bayous because in the summer I would often catch as many species of reptiles and amphibians as I could and would put together a little exhibit for the other kids in the neighborhood. I would spend my mornings catching the animals and spend the afternoons telling everyone who would listen as much as I could about them. Of course at the end of the day I would let all the animals go so I could start new the next day.

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Drawing Attention to the Plight of Elephants -- You Can Help

If you have been following the Service and our campaign to end wildlife trafficking and poaching, you have probably seen the short video above introducing the Crushed Ivory Design Challenge.

When we crushed more than six tons of seized illegal elephant ivory last November, we knew we’d be creating a new issue: what to do with the crushed ivory – about 40 cubic feet?

We realized we needed more minds at work on this to come up with a truly stunning idea. That’s where you come in. We are asking for your help to come up with a winning design that raises awareness and reduces the demand for elephant ivory and other illegal wildlife products. We just needed a way to reach artists, designers and other creative types. 

Making the video
Kayt Jonsson and Jessica Liao work with the pieces of ivory. Credit: USFWS

First came the idea – a stop-motion animation that would announce the design challenge. Using ivory from the Crush, our artists laid out the bits into a design, took a picture, changed it slightly and took another photo. Finally, came all the editing. It’s actually a lot of pictures, like those flipbooks some of us had as kids.  

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In Tragedy’s Aftermath, a Gift from Above

The following story by is reprinted from Fish & Wildlife News.

Ed Ryan was beat.

His weariness belied the usual appearance of a man with the blond, clean-cut looks of a middle-aged movie star. He had just spent the previous month working a major case, in 12-hour shifts, without a break.

Ryan had devoted much of his career to chasing bank robbers, inner city gangbangers and drug kingpins, most of it in the gritty port city of Baltimore. Yet he’d never lost his understated and self-effacing manner (“The bad guys call me ‘Agent Ryan.’ But with my friends, it’s ‘Ed.’”).

But this crime was different, and its physical and emotional impacts had taken their toll. Dog-tired, Ed Ryan needed down-time to decompress, to retreat temporarily from the most momentous investigation of his career – sifting through the chaotic aftermath of American Flight 77’s crash into the Pentagon.

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Service Law Enforcement Agents Break Up International Animal Trafficking Ring

wood turtle
Wood turtles, threatened in the United States, were among the reptiles sent to China by Swanson’s smuggling ring. Credit: Colin Osborn/USFWS

Nathaniel Swanson thought that he had it all figured out. His Everett, Washington, reptile store provided the perfect cover. His contacts in China were trustworthy and reliable. His customers were discreet. He had a system, a ring of effective black market animal traffickers that brought him hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal profit. But Service special agents helped bring his ring down. His illegal wildlife trafficking activities cost him a year of time in prison and tens of thousands of dollars in fines and penalties.

Full story

The Atlantic Coast Flyway: A Highway for Shorebird Migration

American Oystercatcher
A a highly focused partnership has been working for several years to restore American Oystercatcher populations. Credit: USFWS

While it shows bird populations declining across several key habitats, the 2014 State of the Birds report finds much success in areas where a strong conservation investment has been made. One of those areas is the Atlantic Flyway, from the Canadian Arctic to the eastern shores of South America. The Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Conservation Business Strategy works to implement conservation for shorebirds across the entire flyway.

The following story appears in an upcoming issue of Fish & Wildlife News:

Each year, shorebirds undertake some of the longest migrations of any animals on earth, utilizing habitats across a vast area along the way. Within the Atlantic Flyway, many shorebird species breed on the tundra in the Canadian Arctic during summer, then fly south in the fall to winter along the eastern shores of South America. During this international flight, they stop at such critical sites as Delaware Bay and the Caribbean Islands to rest and refuel. Unfortunately, many of these shorebird populations are in trouble.

Atlantic Flyway shorebirds face a variety of human-induced threats at different parts of their journeys, including hunting in the Caribbean, predators that are attracted to the garbage and food found in populated areas, and of course, habitat loss and change throughout the flyway, including the United States.

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