Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
SAN LUIS NWRC: Pathways Program Leads Students to the San Luis NWR Complex
California-Nevada Offices , June 3, 2014
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Park Ranger Madeline Yancey leading a school group on a nature walk.
Park Ranger Madeline Yancey leading a school group on a nature walk. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Office Assistant Linda Lin with an immobilized elk during an elk capture/relocation at the San Luis NWR.
Office Assistant Linda Lin with an immobilized elk during an elk capture/relocation at the San Luis NWR. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Wildlife Biologist Reyn Akiona examines a Kangaroo Rat.
Wildlife Biologist Reyn Akiona examines a Kangaroo Rat. - Photo Credit: USFWS

By Jack Sparks

For years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has offered internship programs that provide conduits for college students to obtain gainful employment and valuable experience while completing their degrees. Past programs included the Student Temporary Employment Program and Student Career Experience Program – more commonly known by their acronyms STEP and SCEP, respectively. These programs have recently been incorporated into one program called the Pathways Program for Students and Recent Graduates to Federal Careers.

The specific arrangements of each Pathways Program may vary for individual students and locations, but at the core there is an agreement between the student intern, the educational institution, and the Service. The student must remain in good standing with the school while employed by the Service. Pathways Program agreements may involve temporary short-term internships, or they can be a longer-term relationship that leads to a position with the Service upon completion of the school program.

Three Pathways interns have successfully completed their degree programs and moved into permanent positions at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The complex includes the San Luis NWR, Merced NWR, San Joaquin River NWR, and Grasslands Wildlife Management Area – all located in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The extensive wetlands of the complex and surrounding lands provide habitat for up to a million waterfowl each winter. Hundreds of thousands of shorebirds and other waterbirds, and large numbers of songbirds and raptors, use these lands.

Madeline Yancey completed her master’s degree in Conservation Biology at CSU, Stanislaus in spring 2013 and was converted to a park ranger position last fall. Her thesis was An Investigation of the Effectiveness of Mowing to Reduce the Population of Bromus diandrus; An Exotic Annual Grass Species in the Great Valley Grasslands State Park. While a student, Madeline worked on numerous projects for the complex under the supervision of the station’s outdoor recreation planner. She is a valuable part of the visitor services program, working on developing environmental education programs and facilitating refuge field trips for school groups, leading tours and nature walks for the public, conducting outreach, and staffing the visitor center. Her background in ecology and as a life-long avid birder make her an asset to the complex as she assists with many wildlife surveys as well as interacting with visitors.

Linda Lin converted to an office assistant position this spring upon completing her associate’s degree in Business at Merced College. Linda started at the complex in 2008 as a Youth Conservation Corps enrollee working on a variety of refuge projects. Soon after the YCC program, she was hired as a STEP student trainee to become part of the refuge’s administrative program and received on-the-job training by two experienced refuge administrative staff. As office assistant, Linda handles a variety of administrative tasks including: visitor services, time and attendance, fleet management, data input, heavy equipment management, station travel, and assisting with the natural resources monitoring program.

Reyn Akiona is the Wildlife Biologist for the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program at the complex. Reyn completed his master’s degree in Ecology and Sustainability at CSU, Stanislaus this spring. HIs research thesis was on the fire ecology of seed germination of several common grassland plant species of California’s Central Valley. As a student intern, he worked on biological monitoring and habitat restoration/management activities. Reyn works primarily with private landowners in the Grasslands Wildlife Management Area by designing and coordinating habitat restoration projects on private lands for the benefit of wildlife. He also provides technical assistance to landowners on habitat management issues and to all programmatic areas of the complex, especially with biological issues and GIS projects.

Pathways interns have the difficult challenge of working – often up to full time – while attending school. Obtaining a position with a National Wildlife Refuge upon graduation makes the hard work worth it for many. The Service benefits by gaining field-tested employees that are known to have relevant experience and training with the agency and have already proven to be valuable and productive members of the refuge team. The program works for the students, the Service and wildlife.

Jack Sparks is the outdoor recreation planner at the San Luis NWR Complex in California.

Contact Info: Jack Sparks, 209-826-3508, jack_sparks@fws.gov
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