National Wildlife Refuge System

2012 Wilderness Fellows on National Wildlife Refuges

The Refuge System’s new Wilderness Fellowship Program provides opportunities for college students to gain career experience while becoming stewards of the wilderness experience.  The first class of 10 fellows is spending six months immersed in wilderness areas of national wildlife refuges.

Fellows take training courses, develop an inventory and monitoring strategy, and produce baseline data about wilderness characteristics. About 20 million acres of the Refuge System are designated wilderness — meaning land is undeveloped and bears few signs of human activity. Wilderness tracts exist in 63 refuges across the country. More than 18 million acres of Service-managed wilderness are in Alaska. 

Steve Zweber
Steve graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in May 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences.  While at UW-Stout he concentrated on land management and plant sciences.  Steve worked as an undergraduate researcher for two summers conducting water quality measurements on a local stream in Menomonie, WI.  The result of this research was the creation of a pollution reduction plan for the City of Menomonie. Last summer, Steve assisted University of Minnesota graduate students with invasive species research, assessing the health of invaded oak forests throughout the state of Minnesota.  Along with his interests in natural resource management and conservation, Steve enjoys camping, rock climbing, snowboarding, disc golfing, and spending time with friends and family.  For the next six months, Steve will serve as a Wilderness Fellow at  Crab Orchard and Mingo National Wildlife Refuges, MO.


Mark Swenson
Mark graduated from the Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management, University of Oregon, in December 2011 where he earned his Master of Community and Regional Planning. He also earned his B.S. in resource management with an emphasis on Land Use Planning from the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point in 2006. Mark worked for the Oregon Partnership for Disaster Resilience, developing Natural Hazard Mitigation Plans for cities and counties throughout Oregon. In addition, Mark worked with the City of Lebanon, Oregon for two years in the development of a community-wide trail system through the University of Oregon's Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) program. In his free time Mark enjoys, biking, fishing, jogging, books, movies, and basketball. Mark will serve as a Wilderness Fellow at Fort Niobrara, NE, Valentine, NE, and Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuges (ND).


Taryn Sudol
Taryn graduated from the College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences, University of Maryland, in May 2012, where she earned her Master’s of Science in sustainable development and conservation biology. As a “CONSer”, she worked on projects that included adaptive management of invasive aquatic flora in Kings Bay, FL, strategic planning for land trusts in the Chesapeake Bay, and woodland patch connectivity in Prince George’s County, MD. Prior to her time in Maryland, Taryn received her Bachelor of Science in environmental science with minors in sustainable development and English from the School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Florida. She has also monitored the population of the Karner blue butterflies at the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park, NY. In her free time, Taryn enjoys reading, spending time outdoors, and drinking iced coffee –preferably all at once. Taryn will serve as a Wilderness Fellow at Monomoy, MA, and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuges, VA, as well as Assateague Island National Seashore for the National Park Service.


Kelly Pippins
Kelly graduated from the University of Maryland in May 2012, where she earned her Master's degree in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology. She earned her Bachelor's degree in quantitative biology from the University of Delaware in 2010. Kelly has studied tropical biodiversity and conservation biology issues while in Costa Rica. She further spurred her interest in international environmental affairs in graduate school, where she studied environmental policy and socio-ecological systems in Indonesia. Kelly developed a watershed management plan for the Columbia Association of Columbia, MD and created an economic tool for the conservation of the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta, Biosphere Reserve in Colombia. Kelly's academic interests include environmental restoration as it relates to human welfare and ecosystem services. In addition to all things outdoors, Kelly always enjoys a competitive game of ultimate Frisbee. She is excited to serve as a Wilderness Fellow in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.


Molly McCarter
Molly is a 2011 graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies with a minor in Geography. While at UNC, Molly attended the Albemarle Ecological Field Site in the Outer Banks of North Carolina where she proposed environmentally conscious amendments to several town ordinances.  As the intern for Manteo’s town planner, she developed a stormwater mitigation plan for the town and proposed a cost-effective curbside recycling program. She also studied renewable energy options for the Outer Banks coastal communities. Molly served as a USFWS 2011 Wilderness Fellow at Imperial and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuges in southwest Arizona. In addition to her career interests, Molly enjoys hiking, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, traveling, and nature photography. Molly will be working in Florida at Key Deer and St. Marks National Wildlife Refuges.


Tom Jablonowski
Tom graduated from Ursinus College near Philadelphia, PA, in May of 2012 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies with a minor in Biology.  Tom also studied ecology, biodiversity, and coastal management at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia.  Last summer, he assisted with the Live Animal Center at the Academy of Natural Sciences.  He has worked on developing an interdisciplinary management plan for Hunsberger Woods, PA.  He also started a long-term ecological study of avian biodiversity and abundance through the Ursinus College Biology Department.  He conducted species composition and territory mapping surveys in this inaugural installment of the study.  In his spare time, Tom enjoys rock climbing, biking, bird watching, tennis, scuba diving, and cars and auto racing.  Tom will be working as a Wilderness Fellow at Bitter Lake, NM, and Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuges, OK.



Last updated: November 7, 2012