Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Cross Program Training- Fisheries Helping Refuges at the Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge
Midwest Region, November 13, 2013
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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Illinois Department of Natural Resources employees prepare a wood duck baiting site
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Illinois Department of Natural Resources employees prepare a wood duck baiting site - Photo Credit: USFWS Sam Finney

When the Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge was established, it was done so in part to aid the recovery of an endangered fish - the pallid sturgeon. I guess then it stands to reason that a fish biologist would make a good pinch hitter as a refuge manager for such a refuge, and that is exactly what I was fortunate enough to do in a recent work detail.

During the summer months of July and August, I spent 30 days along the middle Mississippi River, the section between Cairo, Illinois and St Louis, Missouri, helping out in any ways I was needed and could. Being a small refuge, a little over 8,000 acres, and having a small core staff of about 2-3 people, work at the refuge for all staff members can be described as “varied." Traditional roles for biologists, mangers, and other personnel at a “typical” refuge go out the window as everyone must chip in to get all things accomplished.

For a fellow from the fisheries program that is interested in getting to know life in refuges, this is a good thing. While I was on duty I did tasks that ran the gamut from replacing damaged refuge signs to banding wood ducks, from approving credit card statements to working on habitat management plans, from budget conference calls to mowing grass. Yes sir I got to see it all. 

During my 30 days at Middle Miss, I hoped to learn about the day in day out work at a refuge, assist refuge staff with my knowledge of fish and fisheries, learn from refuge staff about terrestrial, plant and wildlife management, and assist the limited staff in whatever ways I could to help keep them moving while their staff was diminished. Between polishing the fish and aquatic related portions of refuge documents, assisting refuge staff with about every possible thing imaginable, and shadowing refuge staff to learn all that I could about ducks, deer, trees, moist soil plants and the like, I would say that my goals were met. 


Refuge staff were also appreciative of the extra set of hands to keep things afloat. As a wonderful added bonus, I made life long personal and professional friends and connections at the refuge and elsewhere within the refuge system. My office, Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, is also now working with refuge staff more closely on pallid sturgeon management and recovery. I’d say- Mission Accomplished!

Contact Info: sam finney, 618-997-6869 x17, sam_finney@fws.gov
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