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Director's Corner

Dan Ashe served as FWS Director from June 2011 until January 2017. The following is an archive of blogs authored by Director Ashe during that time. This content is intended for historical reference only and not as a representation of current Service policy or opinion.

People Do Connect with Nature, Just Through Computers

We in the conservation field do a lot of hand-wringing over the growing disconnect between people and nature, and there's reason to be concerned. 

America is changing: diversifying, urbanizing, gentrifying, globalizing.  And its people are increasingly de-natured and disconnected from the outdoors. 

So we worry about this disconnect and the challenges it presents.

But then something happens to remind us that while people are becoming physically disconnected with the outdoors, they are more and more fascinated with wild life. 

Lori Iverson, in charge of Education and Visitor Services at Elk National Refuge in Wyoming, took a remarkable set of photos recently that showed a confrontation between juvenile mountain lions and coyotes.

coyotes vs mountain lions

The coyotes let the mountain lions know they weren’t welcome in the area. Credit: Lori Iverson/USFWS

Millions of people viewed these photos on Flickr, and thousands more commented on them and shared them on Facebook.

I think also of “Dr. Spinks,” a youngster in our Salmon in the Classroom project in Portland, Oregon. This program introduces children to salmon and teaches important lessons about stewardship.

Fourth-grader Malachi Spinks was nicknamed “Dr. Spinks” by his classmates because he hopes to become a fish biologist. The night before one of the lessons, Malachi found and completed an online fish dissection module to be better prepared.  He then shared that online module with his teachers, who taught it to about other 150 students. Amazing!

Dr Spinks

One student – Malachi Spinks, or “Dr. Spinks,” leads his peers in identifying each organ of the fish. Credit: USFWS

As a biologist with a deep personal connection to nature, I may not fully understand how, but I think these examples are proof people do make a connection to nature via technology. It’s good to remember that making the connection is important, rather than focusing on how they got there. 

We have to take advantage of technological opportunities if we're going to keep people caring about wildlife and the work we do. 

As Lori’s photos and Malachi’s work show, we are using technology and people do definitely care.


Don't forget about wildlife web cams. Several refuge properties host highly popular live cams on their websites (such as eagle and osprey cams) that draw adults and school children from around the world. The cam watchers learn a lot about the species and also about their habitat by viewing their nesting season online in real time. These cams also help biologists learn more about animal behavior than they ever could by just observing from the ground.
# Posted By Lisa | 4/29/13 9:23 AM

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