Meet Fish and Wildlife Biologist Colleen Draguesku, a #ScienceWoman Making Conservation History
Celebrate Women’s History Month with us! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has an important connection to one of the most notable female conservation heroes: Rachel Carson, who, as one of the first female scientists and government leaders, revolutionized America’s interest in environmental issues.
This year, we’re honoring women across the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and female conservationists who are making history in our agency and in conservation. Meet fish and wildlife biologist Colleen Draguesku of the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office.
To hear more stories from women in science across the country visit #ScienceWoman on Flickr.
How long have you been working with the Service?
About seven years. I started working for the Service in the former Student Career Experience Program during my senior year at California State University Channel Islands. When I graduated with my degree in Environmental Science and completed the requirements of the program, the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office hired me into a full-time position.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I grew up surfing and exploring San Onofre State Beach. I’ve always been excited about science and seeing wildlife at the beach struck a chord with me at an early age. I loved exploring tide pools and was particularly excited about dolphins. I grew up wanting to be a marine biologist so I could learn more about the places I loved. I carried that passion all the way through school. I had the opportunity in college to assist the Keiki Kohola Project in Maui, conducting research on the habitat preferences of humpback whales. It was during that experience I learned I would not be a very good marine biologist; I got sea sick while working on the boats! As a surfer, this was quite a revelation to me. Working for the Service has allowed me to continue my passion for learning about and protecting wildlife, but with more stable footing on land.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
I typically start my morning with a trip to the beach to surf or walk my dog. Southern California is an amazing playground to call home, and I love to start the day outside. From there, I usually start my work day from an office. People are often surprised to learn I spend a lot of time behind a desk. My work often includes reading and writing reports that look at how different projects might impact federally-listed species. It’s my job to understand where federally-listed species live, how their populations are doing in the wild, and how particular projects might impact the ability of those species to survive and recover. It’s also my job to work with people to do good things for these species, so they no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act.
What is your favorite part about your job with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?
My favorite part of my job is working on projects that benefit natural resources for the continuing benefit of the American people. I particularly love getting outside with school children for nature hikes, camp-outs, and birding trips. I’ve been fortunate to work with wonderful groups, like the Bishop Paiute Tribe, who share my love for conservation and education of our next generation. I also love conducting surveys for amphibians, which typically involves hiking to ponds and streams late at night under the moon. We use high-powered flashlights to find the eye shine of animals like the California red-legged frog.
What is the coolest plant or animal that you protect, conserve, restore or educate about?
I love working with animals that undergo metamorphosis, or the change from one form to another. To me, these animals are as close to aliens as I can imagine. I enjoy working with amphibians like the California red-legged frog and California tiger salamander, because their lifecycles add a layer of complexity to their conservation. It’s our job to make sure we conserve the habitat features they need for each of their life stages, which can include both aquatic and upland areas.