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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

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
scorpion
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.

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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.”

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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.

bat
  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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National Wildlife Refuges Help Iditarod Run

musher
Koyukuk Refuge Manager Kenton Moos snapped this photo of a musher on the trail last week...just before his phone froze!

One of the key requirements for a traditional sled dog race is snow (maybe why Miami is not a musher-haven). This year, a lack of snow forced the Iditarod in Alaska to change its route. That meant that mushers competing in the 2015  Iditarod, which crowned a winner today, spent about a quarter of the race next to or in National Wildlife Refuges. 

About 170 miles were in Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge, which lies at the heart of the Koyukon Region. Mushers traveled through the refuge’s boreal forest, wetlands, lakes, tundra, uplands, and along the Koyukuk River itself. The 2015 Iditarod race trail also traces the northern boundary of two other National Wildlife Refuges: Nowitna and Innoko, home to major part of the Iditarod National Historic Trail.

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David Ellis Shares the Wonders of the World with Young People

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service
David Ellis
David Ellis leads a class at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center.

David Ellis, Instructional Systems Specialist for the Fergus Falls Wetland Management District’s Prairie Wetlands Learning Center in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, spent more than 30 years in public education before getting into environmental education permanently. David’s enthusiasm and energy is directed toward using the local environment as a tool to teach students about science, math, language arts and other subjects. By integrating his extensive teaching experience with his love of the outdoors, he creates an environment where students can explore, discover and learn about the natural environment while meeting state and local curriculum standards.

5 Questions for David

1. What inspired you to work with young people?

My inspiration to work with young people began the fall of my freshman year of college. Taking a part-time job to pay for tuition was necessary. My job that fall was working as a noon supervisor at a nearby elementary school. They paid me, but looking back, my memory is of the great delight it was to have children talk with me and gather around me to be with me. That experience was a defining moment for me. Children inspire me. Children see the world with wonder. Children delight in life. They delight in the natural world. Being a part of their lives has always been the best part of each day. Seeing nature through the eyes of a child keeps the wonder of this world fresh and alive.

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Federal Grant Programs Key to Coastal Marina’s Renovation

marina
After improvements at the marina, the Corpus Christi area was also able to see an increase in recreational boating-related spending.

In February, we announced more than $14 million for projects to support recreational boating through our Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG) program. Funding for the BIG program comes from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, which boaters and manufacturers support through excise and other taxes on certain fishing and boating equipment and gasoline.

Learn how BIG and another federal program were key in orchestrating a major renovation effort at the Municipal Marina in Corpus Christi, Texas.

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