Southwest Region
Conserving the Nature of America
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Every Kid Should Have a Creek

I had mine, a little silver rill that spilled through my grandma’s farm in central Georgia. Through the mystical chords of memory I can hear the closing wooden clack of her screen door already five yards behind me as I high-stepped it toward the freedom of the fields and woods. The world was mine to discover and own then; discovering turtles and fish and oaks and the brambles, they all made their mark on my future. Life without an appreciation for nature should be a concern for all people who love the out-of-doors; they will better understand that stewardship of natural things is simply an instinctive part of the human experience. My creek inspired me to pursue conservation as a profession and I have tried to promote the appreciation of nature and conservation whenever possible. Knowing nature steered me down a path in biology and toward a career in conservation, and perhaps nurturing that conservation instinct will inspire young people and students to become better citizens, appreciate our natural resource heritage, and potentially become the conservation leaders of tomorrow.
-- Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Regional Director, Southwest Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Read Cultivating Future Conservation Leaders, Government Executive


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Career, Internship, and Student Opportunities
Help Us Conserve the Nature of America

From the desert southwest to the prairies, our national wildlife refuges, fish hatcheries, wildlife management areas, ecological services field offices, and law enforcement offices offer opportunities for you to shape your future while working for conservation. Whether still enrolled in school or a recent graduate, the Southwest Region provides a variety of training and employment opportunities.

Pathways Program for Students & Recent Graduates
FWS appoints most of its interns through two Pathways Program components:
1)The Internship Program which targets current students enrolled in high school, or college or technical school, at least half time); and 2) The Recent Graduates Program which targets individuals who apply within two years of graduation (this is extended for veterans.

Collectively these programs are geared to give current students and recent graduates practical hands-on job experiences that can eventually lead to established careers within government service. For more information on pathways, visit

FWS Internship Positions
FWS internships provide young people with a rich experience from which to continue further education and launch professional careers. Many of the jobs involve work in wildlife or visitor service related fields that include:
monitoring and assessing threatened/endangered species and habitats, conducting visitor service programs, general maintenance and management, or cultural/historical resource management.
Visit USAJOBS at, or at

Directorate Fellows Program (DFP)
This program is designed to provide fellowship opportunities for undergraduate (rising seniors) and
graduate students to participate in 11 week scientifically rigorous projects in biological science/natural resource management or related fields. Candidates who complete this internship and school requirements may be eligible for a direct appointment with the Service. Project announcements are available in late fall. For more information, visit

Associated Partner Internship Hires (Targeted for College Students)
The Service partners with many state conservation and non-government organizations to provide intern opportunities. These positions are similar to general internships, but interns are recruited and hired by Service partners. The Career Discovery CDIP Interns Internship Program (CDIP) is coordinated through our partnership with the Student Conservation Association (SCA). It is designed to introduce culturally and ethnically diverse college students to conservation careers through hands on experience. These partnerships help FWS in promoting diversity and inclusion of its applicant pools for conservation jobs.

Youth Conservation Corps (YCC)
YCC is a summer employment program for young people ages 15-18. Students work and learn as a team while engaged in environmental stewardship experiences. The YCC focuses on: youth development, natural resource stewardship and conservation, creating positive community involvement and career exploration. Programs are typically 8 weeks long from June through August. Participants gain a variety of experiences from biological monitoring to facilities maintenance and visitor services. To request info on YCC opportunities, contact the FWS regional office, wildlife refuge or fish hatchery nearest you.

Volunteer Positions
A great way to gain experience in the conservation field and to help you decide upon your career is to volunteer at a national wildlife refuge, fish hatchery, and other FWS offices. Volunteer positions are unpaid, but volunteers receive considerable benefits such as learning valuable technical skills and making professional contacts, while working in some of America’s most beautiful landscapes. For more information about volunteer opportunities, contact the volunteer coordinator at a wildlife refuge or fish hatchery nearest you or check out

For information on all FWS opportunities, visit

Engaging the next generation is a critically important strategy for achieving the Southwest Region and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) conservation mission. Building a sustained conservation constituency requires connecting with the ever-growing youth population to ensure that Americans care about conservation. The Southwest Region is engaged in multiple efforts in various programs to align youth from around our nation with region and Service priorities, increase our relevancy, and continue our long and rich tradition of engaging the next generation.

Recruiting efforts in Southwest Region have historically centered on universities with strong biology and wildlife programs, including Oklahoma State, New Mexico State, Texas A&M and the University of Arizona. Students hired in the last 10 years have actually come from over 20 different colleges in over 10 different states, including Langston University, a historically black college, with which we have had a strong relationship for almost 10 years.

Recruiting efforts have included classroom presentations, after hours programs, and an association with colleges Wildlife and Natural Resource clubs and organizations, and an ongoing connection with university faculty and programs. Southwest Region professionals are often asked to present in the classroom to introductory and graduate classes to talk about conservation
issues that confront our region and the world.

Southwest Region Urban Youth Initiatives

The Urban Youth Initiatives for the Southwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildife Service concentrate on two distinct efforts:

  • Urban Wildlife Refuges that are Service land based within urban areas
  • and Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships which are not land based but operate in concert with Refuge partnerships.

In the Southwest Region there are 3 main urban initiatives including Valle de Oro NWR in the South Valley of Albuquerque, New Mexico; the South Texas Refuge Complex Urban Wildlife Refuge in Mcallan, Pharr-San-Juan-Alamo, Texas; and the Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership in Houston, Texas.

In Albuquerque at Valle de Oro, the Southwest Region's first urban refuge, concentrations have been with multiple partnerships within community organizations as well as close contact with state and other federal agencies that support the urban youth initiative. The FY-16 budget includes the planning and design funds for a visitor center.

The South Texas Refuge Complex has a strong partnership with the school system in Pharr-San-Juan-Alamo. They received bird funding this year and have received NFWF funding in the past. They are looking to build urban community capacity this year.

The Houston Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership has two Service staff co-located with NGO partners. The major refuges involved in this effort are Texas Chenier Plains and Texas Mid-coast Complex. Some of the major partners are Student Conservation Association, the Houston Wilderness, and the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD). Currently, the 5 main projects that are supported in this initiative are Green Ambassadors with Furr High School, HPARD after school/summer school programs at community centers, Sister sites which pairs community center with a refuge, virtual field trips with partners for MD Anderson Pediatric Cancer Center and a native seed bank creation.

MRG YCC brochure

Middle Rio Grande Urban Conservation Corps
Creating Synergy to Foster Environmental Stewardship

The Middel Rio Grande is the perfect place to explore the nexxus between culture and sciences because of the long and unique cultural history with Native American, Hispanic, and early Anglo settler communities. A key component of the urban conservation corps is to explore this relationship between culture and the environment through a series of experiences and activites to cultivate conservation awareness in youth.

Read the MRG Urban Conservation Corps brochure



Advancing Environmental Education and Youth Employment in the Middle Rio Grande
The Start of a Beautiful Partnership for Local Youth

Youth involvement in the natural world through both education as well as employment opportunities has long been a priority area for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service). Here in the Southwest Region, our Regional Director Dr. Benjamin Tuggle has always had a passion for creating meaningful conservation experiences for local youth, especially in rural areas where many young people have become increasingly cut off from nature and wild spaces.

In an effort to create a path towards better communication and cooperation while working towards this massive goal, the Service's South West Region has reached out to numerous agencies and groups who feel as strongly as we do that the children are the future of conservation in this country. To continue the conversation as well as find concrete ways to work together to increase our effectiveness in our efforts for New Mexico youth and beyond, the first Advancing Youth Environmental Education and Employment in the Middle Rio Grande Workshop was held at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque, NM on April 24, 2014. While this team will initially focus on youth in a defined area along the Middle Rio Grande, the plan allows for expansion in the future. This effort builds off of the education and youth hiring recommendations from Secretary Salazar’s Middle Rio Grande Conservation Initiative (2012), a document which highlights efforts to develop long-term strategies for managing valued resources of the Middle Rio Grande for New Mexican communities.

Read the entire article


KRQE Student Hands On learning video  
KRQE Student hands-on learning video. Credit: KRQE  

Youth Breathe New Life into Rio Grande Silvery Minnow Sanctuary

What happens when you take urban youth and introduce them to an urban fish sanctuary in need of some hard workand attention?  In the case of the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow Sanctuary(Sanctuary), it was a match made in fishy heaven!
An extraordinary group of eager young people from two local schools were just itching to make a difference and show the world what they could do. 

It all started when 10 freshmen students from Amy Beihl Charter High School made their first visit to the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow Sanctuary. The students spent the afternoon learning about and removing invasive non-native vegetation. 

But the Sanctuary’ s incredible connection to local youth didn't end with those 10 students. A new project started in the classroom at ACE Leadership High School, begining with a contest to see who would get to design actual bridges and kiosks that would one day be built by the students themselves as part of their classroom curriculum.

Staff from the New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, along with the help of other dedicated service staff and their many partners have made a huge effort to involve students in the life of the Sanctuary, and this effort has clearly paid off.

Learn more...

Kids in truck working on the water is life project

Students helping with grassland restoration project in Taos County, NM. Photo credit: Emily Olson.

Aqua es vida. Water is life

October 2015

The water is life youth join Dr. Tuggle for a photo.

Dr. Benjamin Tuggle with Training Program students in Rio Grande bosque. Photo credit: USFWS.


Maceo Martinet, Partners for Fish and Wildlife Biologist, recently was co-instructor for the Aqua es Vida Water Conservation Leadership Training Program (Training Program) based out of Albuquerque’s own Rio Grande High School, Querencia Institute. The Querencia Institute is a non-profit collective of educators, activists, and professionals dedicated to improving the learning experiences of our young people across New Mexico. The Training Program, on-going for the past 2 years, contains both in-class and hands-on work for students, and focuses on water conservation and environmental leadership, knowledge of wildlife and their habitat, and conservation techniques for improving the southwest landscape.

The Division of Ecological Services fills a critical role in community-based projects such as the Aqua es Vida Water Conservation Leadership Training Program due to increased focus on mandated testing that limits teacher and school staff time for outdoor hands-on learning activities. Ecological Services through its Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program can provide local students with practical opportunities along with unique learning experiences geared towards environmental education, environmental leadership, and environmental stewardship.

Says Martinet, of the Program, “The most important aspect of this program was that the youth were able to experience different places, people, and ideas related to water conservation, wildlife habitat, and other environmental issues. Experiences like this help challenge students to build their self-confidence, little by little, in who they are and what they are capable of achieving for our local community.” This past summer, the 5 students from Rio Grande High School received a certificate from the Querencia Institute and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program recognizing their 157 hours of work aimed at local conservation efforts, including:

 Planting 348 native pollinator plants, 100 riparian plants, and dispersing 50 lbs of native grass seed in Northern NM

 Establishing pollinator habitat at 2 urban, organic farms and 1 urban community garden in Albuquerque, NM; and 1 rural community garden/community library in Embudo, NM

 Constructing a rainwater harvesting system for wildlife in the East Mountains, ABQ, NM

“The Aqua es Vida Youth Training project positions the FWS, through the Division Ecological Services with the distinct opportunity to provide and support staff to engage with our local community and its youth, to learn not only about our environmental issues and how to help but also learn about themselves and their own capabilities to champion for the Southwest Region’s imperiled resources.” - Dr. Benjamin N. Tuggle

bird rescue demonstration

Bird rescue demonstration at valle dr Oro. Credit: USFWS.

Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge Hosts Native American Urban Youth Corps

A crew of 8 Native American youth spent time at Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge assisting in a variety of projects that included building trails to groundwater monitoring wells, building clean ups, community outreach and even designed and painted a mural.  The crew was part of the La Plazita Native American Urban Corps, formed with the purpose of providing learning opportunities to Native Youth ages 16 to 25 as they work on conservation projects on Tribal and Ancestral lands and waters.  Supported by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and a $25,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, other partners included the Conservation Legacy and the La Plazita Institute.   

View images of the Native American Youth Corp



The station that supplied the monarch madness supplies for the students; the stuidents begin their quest for monarchs; and a student shows a Service employee their monarch butterfly. Photo credit: USFWS.

Texas Coastal Ecological Services Office Staff Celebrate Monarch Madness at Fennessy Ranch

Texas Coastal Ecological Services staff including Beau Hardegree, Pat Bacak- Clements, Clare Lee, Mary Oms, Kay Scruggs and Chad Stinson operated two of the environmental education stations, Bug Hunt and Birds Up Close. At the Bug Hunt students were given a short presentation on butterfly biology, then equipped with a net and collection container and taken to a nearby field where they collected butterflies. While all butterflies where captured and examined, particular attention was given to Monarchs as they could be tagged as part of the Monarch Watch Program. At the Birds Up Close station student were given instructions on how to correctly use binoculars to identify flora and fauna. Each student was then given the opportunity to use binoculars to identify wildlife around the station. The weather was perfect and the day was enjoyed by all. The programs and activities held at the Fennessy Ranch enabled students to experience nature and also met several Texas state public school requirements.

Lectures were held at the Texas envirothon about habitat and the environment
Sessions were held to enhance students' environmental literacy and enable them to make informed decisions regarding the environment. Photo credit: USFWS.
Jeff Hill and A.J. Vale receive certificates for their work at the texas Envirothon.
Jeff Hill and A.J. Vale receive certificates for their work at the texas Envirothon. Photo credit: USFWS.

The Texas Enviorthon Held in Clear Lake, Texas

Coastal Ecological Services biologists A.J. Vale and Jeff Hill participated in the 2014 Texas Envirothon held April 5-7, 2014 in Clear Lake, Texas. “Envirothon is North America's largest high school environmental competition. High schools from throughout Texas send teams of students to compete in the Envirothon competition.

The goal of Envirothon is to enhance students' environmental literacy and enable them to make informed decisions regarding the environment. Envirothon is a TEAM competition. The winning team moves on to compete in a national Envirothon competition. Through several months of study, teams of five students prepare themselves for testing in wildlife biology, forestry, aquatics, soil science, and a current environmental issue. At Envirothon, teams must work together to answer knowledge-based questions in outdoor field-testing stations and also apply that knowledge to solve real-life problems.

A.J. Vale and Jeff Hill led wildlife seminars covering topics that included threatened and endangered species, migratory birds, and other coastal wildlife. They also prepared test materials and questions and graded tests.

Read the list of participating schools
Read more about the Texas Envirothon



Championship archery
The top student archer inspects his target as his score is tallied. Photo credit: Dan Williams.

New Mexico's Third Annual National Archery Draws 600 Youth Archers

More than 600 student archers competed in New Mexico’s third annual National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) State Tournament March 8 at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Students from across New Mexico participate in the NASP. Schools receive free training for instructors, and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (Department) provides 50 percent of the funding for archery equipment. The Department hosted the event, with support from participating agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service). Federal funding through the Service's Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program makes NASP possible in New Mexico and many other states. The Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 dedicated federal excise taxes collected from manufacturers of firearms, ammunition and archery equipment to national wildlife restoration programs, which include Hunter Education, shooting and archery programs in addition to wildlife surveys, transplants, and the purchase and management of wildlife management areas.

Learn more...
News coverage


lilly pads at Trinity River
Lilly pads on the refuge at Trinity River. Photo credit: USFWS.

Summer Employment at Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge

Liberty, Texas - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, through the Youth Conservation Corps program, is seeking applications from young men and women age 15 to 18 for two summer positions. Training and instruction provided, no prior experience is necessary. Crew members work 40 hours, Monday through Friday, in an outdoor environment. Typical duties include trail maintenance, boundary line posting, fence construction, building construction,

Students paint handicapped signs on the road at Trinity River NWR
Students paint signs on the road at Trinity River NWR.

and various restoration and maintenance projects. Young adults interested in wildlife careers and gaining summer work experience are encouraged to apply. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish and wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Refuge is located at 601 FM 1011, Liberty, Texas.

For more information contact the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge at 936-336-9786.



fish in the classroom
Students prepare a fish tank in the classroom. Photo credit: USFWS.

New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office Sponsors Fish
in the Classroom

The goal of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s “Connecting People with Nature” program is to provide communities with enjoyable and meaningful experiences related to the outdoors. To meet this goal, NMFWCO implemented an outreach program to further interact with the community and provide public educational opportunities. Outreach events target local schools and community members of all ages within the greater Albuquerque area. This program works with local elementary and middle schools by providing them curriculum, aquariums, native fish and biologist support. Each year participating classrooms are provided with New Mexico’s state fish, the Rio Grande cutthroat trout, or with native fishes of the Middle Rio Grande.

Learn more...


Building the raised beds for the urban garden
Building the raised beds for the urban garden. Photo credit: USFWS.

Planting Seeds in an Urban Farm Downtown

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joined efforts at the Alvarado Downtown Garden, also known as an Urban Farm, to give back to the local community while promoting environmental education. On Thursday July 25, Debbie Pike, Visitors Services Manager for the Northern New Mexico NWR Complex, led the way on a student project to install shade structures and pollinator beds. Joining her were students participating in the Youth Conservation Corps and other staff from the Regional Office.

This is just one of the urban farming partnerships with the Service under way. There are several other initiatives taking place including one in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and another in partnership with the Mountain View Community Center and the Valle de Oro urban National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque.

Albuquerque’s downtown urban farm sits on a half-acre strip of land between the Gold Avenue parking garage and the Silver Gardens apartments. It was first established from a vision to turn a vacant urban lot, owned by the City, into an urban farm to provide low-income families access to fresh, local food. The Historic Downtown Improvement Committee and the Downtown Action Team expanded the project to benefit the Albuquerque’s public school system and the Veteran Farmer Project.

Volunteers hoist structure for the urban garden.
Volunteers hoist a structure for the urban garden. Photo credit: USFWS.

The school’s program positively impacts urban youth by providing opportunities to work the farm – allowing them to plant seeds and watch them grow. Participants in the Veteran’s project gain the basic skills needed for sustainable farming, while receiving therapeutic benefits.

This green effort is being widely embraced by the local community. In the future, the Service will be partnering with a local school, Amy Biehl High School, to develop pollinator hotels, interpretative signs and plant trees along the walkway. The Committee has plans to maintain this urban farming concept even if development of the downtown lot occurs in the future by looking at developing a rooftop grow space above a public market building.


Youth Symposium, February 2013  
Forty-Five Students, joined by their mentors, attend the Conservation Career Symposium. Photo credit: USFWS  

Forty-Five Conservation Students Visit the Southwest

The Southwest Conservation Career Symposium was hosted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) Southwest Region at the Dennis Chavez Federal Building. The Symposium was designed for bachelor and post-graduate degree majors in Natural Resource and the Biological Sciences interested in exploring future employment opportunities with the Service. The event, which was presented by the Service’s National Conservation Training Center, brought in 45 undergrad and graduate students from across the country. Workshops led by Service professionals included, resume building, interview techniques, honing networking skills, and establishing sound job-search practices. There were also opportunities for the students to attend an outdoor classroom environment at the Beccechi Open Space adjacent to the Rio Grande bosque and Rio Grande Valley State Park. There they learned about Albuquerque's drinking water, monitoring efforts for the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow and much more.

Watch and learn about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.     

For more information:
Media Advisory
Symposium Photo Album
Field Trip Photo Album
Video - Hear from the students






bridge at NCTC  
Students cross the bridge at the National Conservation
Training center.  Photo credit: USFWS

More Student Opportunities

There are many opportunities for students within the Southwest Region, including summer positions through Youth Conservation Corps. There are also educational opportunities such as  Biologist in Training is an exciting program designed to guide students through a fun, hands-on exploration of aquatic habitats.

Learn more about how you or your school can get involved in wildlife conservation.

Interested in doing more? Check out how to get started as a volunteer.  

Read about the Region's Collaboration with the Steve Harvey Mentoring Weekend


Student Pathways Program

Executive Order 13562 estabished the Pathways Program which modified the Internship Program and the Recent Graduate Program, as well as the Presidential Management Fellows Program into a collective partnership between recent high school, graduate and post-graduate students and career paths within the Federal Government.

This partnership infuses the Federal Government with a diverse workforce that brings enthusiasm, talents, and unique perspectives to its recruiting efforts through student hires.

The Pathways Program replaces the existing Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) and the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) and targets students enrolled in a wide variety of educational institutions. It provides students an opportunity to explore federal careers while being paid for the work they perform. At the successful conclusion of this program, the student may be eligible for conversion to a non-competitive Federal career or career conditional position.

Read the Executive Order
Read the Federal Regsiter Notice
Proposed Rule: Pathways for Students
Proposed Rule: Proposed Presidential Management Fellows (PMF)
Proposed Rule: Internship Summary

Students interested in research or grant opportunities should visit the Federal grants website. (

The Division of Human Resources (DHR) is primarily responsible for Student Programs. The Division of Diversity and Civil Rights (DDCR) assists in outreach and recruitment for these programs and provides employees and students scholarship information to assist with education expenses.  

Last updated: November 24, 2015