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A Talk on the Wild Side.

The Not-so Typical Way to Spend Your Summer

Intern at a National Wildlife Refuge

Do you ever see photos on Facebook of someone with a big grin and wide eyes, holding a recently banded bird? And you get an ache in your heart, inspiration to get out there and do a similar project. Well, then you’re going to love these opportunities. Some might even set you on the path to a career in wildlife conservation.

Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hired more than 1,500 interns, ages 15 and older. This year, one of those could be you!

Some national wildlife refuges are already looking for 2016 summer interns, including: Chincoteague (VA), Rachel Carson (ME), Iroquois/Erie (NY/PA), Neal Smith (IA) and Santee (SC).

We’re sharing some of the most common tasks that summer interns get assigned and a translation of what assignments REALLY mean.

Fins and Feathers

  • Band birds  (Coldwater River Refuge, MS) → Help scientists track birds' health and numbers.
    Summer Intern Stories about Bird Banding.

  • Monitor shorebirds and search for nests (Chincoteague) → Watch birds and figure out their nesting behavior.

  • Mist-net birds (Parker River, MA) → To band them, you have to catch them. Learn to do it safely for both you and the birds.

  • Rescue fish from a dried pond (Hagerman, TX) → Get that fish to water to help it survive.

Digging in the Dirt

  • Control invasive plants (William L. Finley, OR) → Rescue native plants from the grips of invasive bullies.

  • Propagate native plants  (Neal Smith) → Steward awesome plant growth that helps many animals.

  • Map problem spots using GPS  (Chincoteague, Neal Smith) → Make yourself a private investigator of criminal plants.

Welcoming Others and Teaching About the Natural World

Manual Labor in the Glorious Outdoors

  • Maintain trails  (Santee, William L. Finley) → Clear a natural path through woods, mountains and valleys.

  • Maintain wood duck boxes  (Santee) → Give the ducks a safe place to nest.

  • Cut trees (Neal Smith)  → Flex those muscles and down woody invaders that don’t belong.

  • Help conduct prescribed burns (Neal Smith) → Fire up for conservation.

Collecting Data for Science:

We all know someone who would be a perfect fit for a summer internship at a national wildlife refuge. Whether that’s you or someone you know, find your local refuge or connect with Student Conservation Association and locate an internship near you.

Learn more about internships and how to apply here.

If You Build It, They Will Come: A Field of Dreams for Endangered Bats

Indiana bats  Credit: Andrew King/USFWS

The Indiana bat was first listed as endangered in 1967, under the precursor to the Endangered Species Act due to population declines associated with disturbance during hibernation and changes to the hibernacula (where bats spend winter hibernating like caves and mines). However, protection of hibernacula solely did not lead to species recovery.  Consequently, bat biologists began to focus on other habitat needs, including summer maternity habitat.  During the summer months, Indiana bat maternity colonies roost under the exfoliating bark of large dead and/or dying trees.

Read about how our Kentucky Field Office worked with Fort Knox and others to monitor and protect the maternity colonies there and support the Army’s mission.

Join Us For A Live Broadcast About Manatees and Monarchs

We just celebrated a major success in the conservation of the West Indian manatee, determining that it was no longer endangered but should be listed as threatened. “It's like taking manatees out of intensive care and putting them in a regular care facility," said Jim Valade, our Florida Manatee Recovery Coordinator. "They still need our attention without a doubt, but they are no longer in intensive care per se." We believe that the monarch is a success story in the making as people all over the continent work to conserve the butterfly. We take a closer look at these interesting species on the next episode of conservation connect.

Chat with Monarch and Manatee Experts

On January 20 at 2 pm EST conservation experts will talk about manatees and monarchs LIVE! Students have the opportunity to chat with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Visitor Service Specialist Ivan Vicente from Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge and our Monarch Butterfly Biologist Tracy McCleaf from our National Conservation Training Center. Tune in to ask questions about wildlife species, careers and new technology being used to study our natural world.

Mark your calendars and join us at nctc.fws.gov/broadcasts

More Information on Manatees:
The West Indian manatee is a fascinating mammal that is sometimes referred to as a “sea cow.” They live off the coast of Florida and the Caribbean and have been spotted on the following National Wildlife Refuges. 

Manatees have been seen on these National Wildlife Refuges:

Download the Manatee Activity Book
Become a Fan of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Complex
Download the Manatee Educator Guide
See how you can help through the manatee photo identification program.
Download the Lesson Plan
Live Manatee Cam (Available Nov 1 - March 31 only)

More on Monarchs:
Monarch butterflies are in trouble, they are threatened by a loss of native milkweed on which they lay their eggs and feed their caterpillars. In an effort to save the monarch butterfly, many are getting involved with ensuring that they have a place to live and food to eat by planting native plants such as milkweed and goldenrod. As an insect, they undertake one of the world’s most remarkable and fascinating migrations, traveling thousands of miles over many generations from Mexico, across the United States, to Canada.  Learn more about monarchs and what you can do to help them.

Check out the Monarch Larva Monitoring Citizen Science Project

More on Conservation Connect
Conservation Connect is a new web-based video series, in partnership with the National Science Teachers Association, that aims to connect youth, ages 9-14, with the great outdoors & conservation careers. To check out other episodes, resources, and lesson plans, visit http://nctc.fws.gov/conservationconnect/.

Partnerships Powering Conservation

Oxbow Instream and Riparian Restoration project.

Partnerships help bring together the boots on the ground with the technical and financial assistance that makes wildlife habitat conservation happen.

Read about a project in Oregon made possible by partners.

Celebrating and Protecting Salamanders

 Rough-skinned newt
Rough-skinned newt. Photo by Teal Waterstrat/USFWS

One of my editors hates the word iconic. He thinks, correctly, that it is way overused and so diminishes those species that really are iconic. Plus, he says, other words – well-known, celebrated – can be used just fine. This is a story about salamanders, so he needn’t be on the lookout for the I-word.

Even if they aren’t … well, you know … salamanders are quite important.

Salamanders, for instance, are excellent indicators of environmental health.

Their eggs and skin are permeable, like those of all amphibians, which let water and oxygen pass through. This makes them sensitive to water quality, so keeping an eye on salamanders can give us an indication that there is trouble before we might otherwise realize.

Salamanders also play big roles in nature’s food web.

In forests, salamanders help keep insects and other arthropods in balance. Many of their prey, such as ants and termites, are human pests. And by eating arthropods that themselves eat decomposing leaf litter, salamanders reduce the release of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, which is good for the global carbon cycle.

In vernal ponds (temporary pools of water that provide habitat for specific plants and animals), some salamander species are top predators and help control the abundance of aquatic invertebrates and other amphibians.

Of course, salamanders are also prey for many native animals, including various fish, birds and mammals.


“June Hogs” - The Legend of the Super Salmon

June Hogs

Every angler has at least one story about the big one that got away. Fisheries biologist and history buff Dan Magneson has a two-part story on “June Hogs,” an almost-mystical “super salmon” of the Columbia River.


Tune in to Native Trout Conservation

 Nate Wiese  and Jeremy Voeltz
Nate Wiese and Jeremy Voeltz.

Nate Wiese from Mora National Fish Hatchery in New Mexico and Jeremy Voeltz from the Arizona Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office were recently interviewed on Bass Pro Outdoor World Radio. (Sirius XM 147). They discussed their conservation work with Gila trout and Apache trout, two species found only in the Southwest Region.

You can listen to Nate and Jeremy here.  




Ripley's, Sports and the Fish and Wildlife Service

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service
Mark Chesna
Mark Chesna (right) and a friend at the Green Bay playoff win against Washington last week.

In November, the Ripley’s Believe It or Not comic strip heralded Mark Chesna for having been to 2,930 sporting events. He’s now up to 2,971, and more than half have been during the 18 years he has worked at the Service’s National Conservation Training Center (NCTC).

Mark is the studio manager at NCTC. He works on distance learning  broadcasts, webcasts, pretty much whatever comes out of our studio at NCTC, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

His first event was a baseball game: the first-place Chicago Cubs lost to the third-place St. Louis Cardinals in the first game of a doubleheader on July 6, 1969, in St Louis.

And he has all his ticket stubs, scorecards, scrapbooks and more since then.

Mark says he started keeping track as a kid when his dad took him to games and taught him how to keep score. “I always HAD the scorebooks of all games.”

When he was in college, he suffered an injury that wasn’t too serious but left him with some time on his hands. He combined all his records into one notebook, so he didn’t have to search too hard if he wanted to look up a game. And he has “just kept that up since then.”


U.S., China Share Best Practices for Wetlands Management

Exchange at Ding Darling
Visitor Damon Yeh shared these photos.

Because of China’s large population, it faces many challenges for managing its water resources to restore natural habitats and mitigate damages from floods and landslides. So last month, we hosted a group of Chinese wetlands officials touring protected areas in southern Florida. The goal for this trip was to learn about wetlands restoration, monitoring and management in the United States and provide new ideas for the Chinese on how to manage wetlands in their home country.


The delegation learned how complex wetlands management in Florida is and how many different stakeholders are involved. Working with diverse interest groups is a challenge in both countries, but it is vital. Delegates were also very interested in our education and outreach efforts and hope to implement some of our practices in their protected areas. Both Chinese and U.S. officials agree that educating the public is a critical step in developing effective management practices.

Over the eight-day period, the delegation visited Everglades National Park, Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Picayune Strand State Forest, Florida Panther Refuge, 10,000 Islands Refuge and Big Cypress National Preserve. These public lands are home to countless birds, alligators, manatees, dolphins and many other species. A few of the delegates were lucky enough to see a black bear and its cub.


The Fish and Wildlife Service and China’s State Forestry Administration have conducted many exchanges over the years covering a wide variety of thematic areas. These exchanges are to share best practices and build a mutual understanding of conservation within these two countries. For more information see: http://www.fws.gov/international/wildlife-without-borders/east-asia/us-china-nature-conservation-protocol.html

Good News for Manatees

manatee feeding
Mike Oetker, Deputy Regional Director of the Service’s Southeast Region, feeds a manatee as Jessica Schiffhauer, an assistant animal care supervisor at Miami Seaquarium, looks on. Photo by Ken Warren/USFWS

On a warm and sunny day in South Florida, palm trees swayed as a cool breeze blew in from across Biscayne Bay prompting Mike Oetker to say while looking at sea cows glide along peacefully at Miami Seaquarium: “This setting is right off my bucket list.” 

Mike, Deputy Regional Director of our Southeast Region, was at the Seaquarium on January 7 for a news conference to announce that the Service proposes downlisting West Indian manatees from “endangered” to “threatened.”  The event was held right at the edge of the pool where rescued manatees are rehabilitated and/or kept if they can’t be returned to the wild. 

As the manatees swam by, Mike delivered the good news saying, “The Fish and Wildlife Service recently completed our review of the manatee’s status and based on the best available scientific information we believe the manatee is no longer in danger of extinction.” 

He added, “This action we’re announcing today, really in our view, demonstrates the successes of how the Endangered Species Act can and does work…and is making waterways safer and cleaner in Florida.” 


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