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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Hosts Year-long Activities with Phi Beta Sigma

Region 8, October 28, 2016
Members plant milkweed in the native plant nursery.
Members plant milkweed in the native plant nursery. - Photo Credit: n/a
Participants try their hand at kayaking in Newark Slough for the first time.
Participants try their hand at kayaking in Newark Slough for the first time. - Photo Credit: n/a
Carmen Minch holds a leopard shark for Phi Sigma Beta adolescent
Carmen Minch holds a leopard shark for Phi Sigma Beta adolescent - Photo Credit: n/a

By Ennis Chauhan


The US Fish & Wildlife Service and the fraternity Phi Sigma Beta signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2014 to introduce fraternity members and families to science, plants, environments, outdoor recreation and community service. In 2015, Vice President Ira Young of Alpha Nu Sigma, a chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Western Region, contacted the Don Edwards Refuge to plan a variety of events for the 2015-2016 year. In all, three events took place: a nature walk, an introduction to kayaking, and an introduction to pier fishing, all located in Fremont, CA.

In October 2015, the first event between Don Edwards Refuge and Phi Sigma Beta started with a Nature Walk led by Carmen Minch. The walk was an introduction to the Don Edwards Refuge, the wildlife, and its purpose. The walk began with a lesson on using binoculars, followed by a rousing game of bird bingo as they hiked the trails. It was a new and exciting experience for most of the members and their families. The bird bingo provided an opportunity of exploration and discovery as they learned to distinguish between the many types of birds and their unique characteristics. Participants in the walk also propagated milkweed seeds that were to be planted later on the refuge.

In April 2016, there was an especially fun and unique event held at Don Edwards Fremont, “Introduction to Kayaking.” It was intended to introduce fraternity members to a type of outdoor recreation they may not have ever experienced. Unlike the hike and the nature walk, this event required a bit more open-mindedness. However, the fraternity was all-in! The day began with learning the safety protocol and procedures. Groups took turns boating in Newark Slough. Each kayak held two people, so working in unison was important. Getting the kayaks into and out of the water proved to be the most challenging feats of the day, but it was executed with near perfection.

While one group was out with the kayaks, the other group played an interesting game of Geopardy, led by interns Erica Duke and Ennis Chauhan. The game was very much like the traditional Jeopardy, but with questions based on the refuge and wildlife.

The kayaks and instruction were provided by Dean McCully, a community volunteer. Many thanks for his generosity, time and efforts. The event was a great success; everyone had fun and learned a lot. In a quote from Ira Young, “Thank you very much for the wonderful experience that you and your colleagues provided our Sigma Beta’s!!! The boys thoroughly enjoyed themselves and will always treasure their first kayaking experience.”

In July 2016, the year-long events concluded with the Don Edwards refuge hosting a fishing activity at the Dumbarton Fishing Pier. The Dumbarton Fishing pier was an ideal location because both adults and children are able to fish without the necessity of a fishing license as the pier is designated a Public Fishing Pier.

Various stations were setup in order to teach the new anglers step by step the fundamentals and best practices of fishing. The participants learned how to setup the rod and reels, tie knots, and add weights and hooks to the fishing rods. The participants also learned about watershed protection as a way to tie everything together and to see how waterways are all connected. Members of Alpha Nu Sigma were able to see and touch live leopard sharks, see a bat ray, and touch ghost shrimp and tunicates. It was an experience like no other for them as many of the youngsters were fascinated by the creatures. As one young child phrased it, “I only saw those (bat ray) on TV!”

In the joint effort between Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge and the fraternity Phi Sigma Beta, came a lot of new experiences. These experiences will help bridge a gap between generations as the adults and children alike had never participated in some afore mentioned activities, yet many will try them again in the future. The staffs at Don Edwards Refuge and Phi Beta Sigma hope to further their relationship and continue to broaden the horizons of each organization.

Contact Info: Carmen Minch, 510-792-0222 ext. 476, carmen_leong-minch@fws.gov