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Midwest Region
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Midwest Region welcomes 10 new project leaders

This year’s flurry of early summer activity also brings us a swath of personnel moves and additions. We’re pleased to welcome 10 new project leaders who have recently moved into a variety of leadership positions across the region, some new to our region, others moving to new positions within the region. Please welcome these great additions to our team across the Midwest Region!

 

Susan E. Wells

Susan E. Wells

Station: Green Bay Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office

Previous Job:

National Coordinator, National Fish Passage Program

What excites you the most about your new role?

Being closer to where you can see conservation happen. Working with partners on a regional scale to implement conservation ideas and practices that I had while in Headquarters on a national scale.

How will your past experiences help you work with your new staff to meet the challenges ahead?

I started off as a field biologist in Region 3 working directly for the resource for 12 years before moving to Headquarters. While in Headquarters, I gained the experience and knowledge of how things fit together locally, regionally and nationally to implement the Service’s mission. Having this knowledge and the knowledge of how the federal resources are administered through the budget process and policies, gives me an insight to how we - in the field - can truly move the needle based upon the constraints and oversight that is a product of being a federal agency.

What is your favorite pastime?

I enjoy being outdoors on the beach, swimming and hiking but also get a lot of satisfaction in volunteering in local ladies’ softball organizations. In northern Virginia I volunteered for a local softball recreational and travel league. Most of my free time was spent trying to garner resources for the ladies and making sure they were provided a fair playing field against the other sports, especially the male dominated ones. This consisted of many local town council meetings and meetings with mayors and local high schools. I currently do not have that outlet here in Green Bay but still help the northern Virginia league at times from afar.

 

Rebecca Neeley

Rebecca Neeley

Station: La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office

Previous Job:

Station Lead for the Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office - Wilmington Substation

What excites you the most about your new role?

The chance to continue my work with invasive species but also work towards the preservation of native species. I am also really excited about working with my new staff and getting to know them better

How will your past experiences help you work with your new staff to meet the challenges ahead?

I have spent 19 years working with invasive species in three different offices, so I have a solid background in one of the primary responsibilities of our office. Through this work I have also come to understand the importance of partnerships and how vital it is to establish, foster and maintain them to get the most out of every project.

What is your favorite pastime?

Spending time with my husband and family as well as working on my many crafts.

 

Richard (Rick) Speer

Richard (Rick) Speer

Station: Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge

Previous Job title and location:

Project Leader, Crab Orchard and Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuges

What excites you the most about your new role?

The opportunity to concentrate more directly with on-the-ground land protection and management, plus working with staff and numerous partners to achieve that goal.

How will your past experiences help you work with your new staff to meet the challenges ahead?

In my current role, I oversee a staff of more than 30 individuals, including temporary employees, both reporting directly and through secondary levels of program supervisors. My new refuge has a staff of three permanent employees, including myself. My challenge will be to develop positive working relationships with the refuge team (staff, volunteers, partners) to work together to accomplish the mission, goals and other aspects of the refuge. I have previously had the privilege of working with both large and small staffs, along with volunteers and a variety of partners to accomplish agency projects and missions. With this in mind, I look forward to working with the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge team in continuing the great work that has been accomplished over the last 25 years.

What is your favorite pastime?

Currently, I have not been pursuing any pastimes. In my new position, I hope to renew a few of my long-distant pastimes of nature photography, fishing and taking relaxing evening drives in the country. As Merle Haggard put it once in a song, “I can almost see that bobber dancing.” I hope to see that bobber dancing again soon.

 

Patrice Ashfield

Patrice Ashfield

Station: Ohio Ecological Services Field Office

Previous Job:

Branch Chief for National Consultations, Ecological Services, Headquarters

What excites you the most about your new role?

Being back in a field office and working on projects where you can see tangible, beneficial results.

How will your past experiences help you work with your new staff to meet the challenges ahead?

I have worked in California, Hawaii and Headquarters on myriad projects covering most of the Service's Endangered Species Act regulatory responsibilities. I hope my extensive background in Ecological Services will enable me to better assist the biologists in this office as they work on various projects or tackle tough issues. I am looking forward to learning about the listed species in Ohio from the knowledgeable and talented biologists at the Ohio Field Office as they work to enhance recovery activities with our local, state and federal partners. In addition, Ohio is a part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and our wetland biologist and toxicologist are working with a vast array of partners to improve the health of Lake Erie for species and people. I am thrilled to be at the Ohio Ecological Services Field Office working with such experienced biologists to make a difference for our species and their habitats.

What is your favorite pastime?

Birding, camping, hiking and enjoying nature. Nothing beats a walk through a natural place and enjoying the native flora and fauna.

 

Jason Wilson

Jason Wilson

Station: Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Complex

Previous Job title and location:

Project Leader, Great River, Clarence Cannon and Middle Mississippi River Refuge Complex

What excites you the most about your new role?

The opportunity to work on such a large stretch of the Missouri River in my home state of Missouri and making positive impacts on a landscape scale.

How will your past experiences help you work with your new staff to meet the challenges ahead?

I can draw from my past experience managing a refuge complex spread out over a long stretch of a big river system. In the last few years, I have been fortunate to work with a lot of great folks and be involved in many different aspects of management on the river, including large scale restoration projects that involved developing partnerships, resolving conflicts and ultimately, in finding shared values. While I believe all of these experiences will help the refuge, our future success will be built upon the great staff at Big Muddy. It’s their knowledge of the resource, hard work and dedication that make the difference.

What is your favorite pastime?

Spending time with my family.

 

Jess Barber

Jess Barber

Station: Marquette Biological Station

Previous Job:

Supervisory Fish Biologist at Marquette Biological Station

What excites you the most about your new role?

I am excited and humbled by the opportunity to work with and provide leadership for the amazing staff at the Ludington and Marquette Sea Lamprey Control Stations.

How will your past experiences help you work with your new staff to meet the challenges ahead?

The most important thing I have learned is that progress and/or change takes time. The accomplishments that have made me the proudest were the ones that took the longest to achieve. Building trust, developing staff and creating space for new ideas and innovation without the fear of failure are critical components to the evolution and success of any project or program. It takes time to cultivate a shared vision and a true commitment to see it through.

What is your favorite pastime?

I love to be outdoors - camping, running and biking.

 

Bill Peterson

Bill Peterson

Station: Horicon National Wildlife Refuge-Leopold Wetland Management District Complex comprised of Fox River, Gravel Island, Green Bay and Horicon National Wildlife Refuges and the Leopold Wetland Management District

Previous Job title and location:

Project Leader, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts

What excites you the most about your new role?

The Complex spans an incredible diversity of habitats and user groups, which will make every day challenging, rewarding and fun!

How will your past experiences help you work with your new staff to meet the challenges ahead?

My past experiences have instilled an appreciation for open, frank communications among staff and with our partners regarding station priorities, opportunities and challenges. I'll ensure that everyone works together to meet the challenges ahead and share the rewards.

What is your favorite pastime?

I love spending time outdoors, especially hiking, with my family.

 

Marcie Kapsch

Marcie Kapsch

Station: Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge

Previous Job title and location:

Project Leader, Santee National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina

What excites you the most about your new role?

Working in a new region within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service along a new flyway. Getting to experience both fall and spring migration for waterfowl and getting to be part of habitat restoration projects along the Mississippi River to enhance wildlife communities for future generations.

How will your past experiences help you work with your new staff to meet the challenges ahead?

I am a very collaborative person by nature, so I hope to continue creating partnerships and look for new opportunities to have conservation successes. By keeping a constant feedback loop, I will always re-evaluate what I think I know and try new things - keeping all perspectives and viewpoints in mind. Leading with compassion will hopefully empower those around me to see their full potential and I am really excited to join an already great team at the refuge.

What is your favorite pastime?

My husband and I are currently wrangling three children, ages 6 (Trey), 4.5 (Bayla) and 2 (Gwyneth), but we love to travel, hike and explore. We are excited to adventure in a new portion of the country and all the outdoor recreation opportunities it will provide.

 

Denise Johnston

Denise Johnston

Station: Pendills Creek/Sullivan Creek National Fish Hatchery

Previous Job:

Assistant Project Leader – Jordan River National Fish Hatchery

What excites you most about your new role?

After being an assistant manager for almost 20 years, I am most excited by the chance to try something different and learn a new role!

How will your past experiences help you work with your new staff to meet the challenges ahead?

Over the years, I have worked at several refuges and two other hatcheries. One of the take away lessons from all of these diverse facilities is the need for patience and flexibility in an ever-changing world. By being patient and flexible enough to approach challenges from a new angle, we will be able to work through or around anything.

What is your favorite pastime?

Reading has always been my favorite pastime, closely followed by hiking!

 

Kent Sundseth

Kent Sundseth

Station: Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge and Wetland Management District

Previous job title and location:

Project Leader, Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge and Wetland Management District in Cayuga, North Dakota

What excites you most about your new role?

I find it energizing to experience different refuges, meet new people and take on unique challenges. My role at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge and Wetland Management District should provide all those opportunities.

How will your past experiences help you work with your new staff to meet the challenges ahead?

I’ve been fortunate to work in three different states and regions. That diversity of experience should help me bring a different perspective to the team. Working with neighbors and partners on common conservation goals is something I value and I hope to engage with my new staff on those efforts at my new station.

What is your favorite pastime?

I enjoy being outdoors to hunt, fish and hike with my friends, family and retrievers. I also really like to cook both indoors and outdoors.

 

Last updated: June 8, 2020