Inside Region 3
Midwest Region
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Meet the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Complex

Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Complex is located in Ohio along the southwestern shore of Lake Erie and consists of more than 10,000 acres of coastal wetlands and other Lake Erie associated habitats. The area encompassing the refuge complex historically supported the “Great Black Swamp” region of northwestern Ohio. This swamp was a vast network of forest, wetland, and grassland in the former southwestern part of proglacial Lake Maumee, a Holocene precursor to Lake Erie. The refuge complex includes three national wildlife refuges; Ottawa, Cedar Point and West Sister Island. Ottawa Refuge was established in 1961, Cedar Point in 1964, and West Sister Island in 1937. The owners of the Cedar Point Shooting Club, who had owned the property since 1882, gifted the Cedar Point property to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Both Ottawa and Cedar Point Refuges were established with the same purpose under authority of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; the authorizing purpose was stated as: “…for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds” along with preserving a portion of the remaining Lake Erie marshes. The refuge complex is recognized as globally important bird areas by the American Bird Conservancy and as regional shorebird reserves in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. The Ottawa Refuge Complex has a visitor center, ranger station, more than 16 miles of public use trails, a 7.5-mile wildlife drive and hosts many special events throughout the year, including the “Biggest Week in American Birding” bird festival. The refuge had more than 330,000 visits in 2018.

Jason Lewis

Jason Lewis

Jason Lewis has served as the Project Leader at the Ottawa Refuge Complex for seven years. Prior to coming to Ottawa, Jason worked at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri, Big Oaks and Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuges, both in Indiana, primarily as a wildlife biologist. He got his start in federal service through the Student Career Experience Program while in graduate school at Ball State University, Ohio. Lewis spends most of his time working with refuge staff and partners restoring, enhancing and protecting fish and wildlife habitats through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. He grew up in southern Indiana hunting, fishing and trapping. He owes his passion and appreciation for the outdoors and the natural world to his parents. Hunting, gathering and raising a garden was part of the daily living for the Lewis family. He is the second youngest of five brothers. He and his brothers spent every available moment roaming the hills and hollows of southern Indiana. When Lewis was not roaming the forests of southern Indiana, he was pursuing his passion for sports by playing basketball or running cross-country and track. Lewis is married to Gwen, who he met while working at Big Oaks refuge. He and his wife have two children, Willow and Wren. Lewis enjoys birdwatching, family camping, hunting and coaching various youth sports during his free time.

Eddy Pausch

Eddy Pausch

Eddy Pausch has been the Assistant Refuge Manager/Federal Wildlife Officer for Ottawa Refuge for 13 years. After graduating from the wildlife program at Humboldt State University, California, Pausch spent a short three and a half years with the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer at Khutse Game Reserve. After returning to the U.S., he worked at McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge in Texas as a biological technician; an Assistant Manager/Refuge Officer at Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada; and a Refuge Manager/Refuge Officer at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. Involved in all aspects of refuge management, much of Pausch’s time has been dedicated to facility management, habitat restorations, public use developments, water management, law enforcement and working with partners on public events. Originally, from Ohio, Pausch prefers some topography in the landscape. He and his wife, Laura, have two boys - Leo and Oakley. The family enjoys time in the outdoors and travelling the states. He and Laura reached a goal of visiting all 50 states by making it to Hawaii earlier this year. Besides bird lists, the boys have state lists, too, having already visited 38.

 

Justin Woldt

Justin Woldt

Justin Woldt grew up in Wisconsin and spent his youth outdoors camping and exploring. Family trips to public lands around the country helped shape his appreciation for nature and early desire to become a park ranger. Woldt graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Madison with a degree in Zoology and Psychology. He started his career as a Park Ranger shortly after and celebrated 13 years with the Department of the Interior in June. Woldt has worked at Yellowstone National Park, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Congaree National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park and currently as the Visitor Services Manager at Ottawa refuge. Prior to serving with the Department, he was employed at a non-profit residential environmental education center. Woldt enjoys kayaking, biking, hiking, swimming, camping with his wife Becky and four kids, Nina 7, Elsie 5, Avery 3 and Logan 18 months. (Although most of his free time is spent “working projects” and “pretending”)

 

 

Rebecca Lewis

Rebecca Lewis

Rebecca Lewis is the Visitor Services Specialist for Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. She has worked at the refuge for 22 years and has been with the Service for 28 years. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, she began her career as a Co-op Student with the Litchfield Wetland Management District in Minnesota. She discovered her love of visitor services while working at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan. Some of her favorite aspects of her job have been working with the Federal Junior Duck Stamp Program, sharing her love of birds with many visitors to the refuge, and the many volunteers she has had the pleasure to work with over the years. Lewis is originally from Wisconsin and has always enjoyed spending time outdoors. Rebecca has two teenagers, a son and a daughter, who are active in band, drama, writing, Girl Scouts and cosplay. She enjoys birding, traveling, her two teenagers, volunteering and time with family and friends.

Ron Huffman

Ron Huffman

Ron Huffman has been the Wildlife Biologist for the Ottawa Refuge Complex since 2001. He started with the Service as a summer undergraduate researcher at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota, in 1992, working on golden-winged warbler surveys, then bird surveys and finally on a master’s research project on songbird use of aspen clear-cuts in 1995. In 1997, Huffman was hired as the first biologist at the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, California, working on both wildlife surveys and on an extensive land acquisition expansion for the new refuge. At Ottawa Refuge Complex, he oversees the refuge’s biological program, conducts water management across the refuge’s 38 wetland units and has assisted in the implementation of more than $9 million dollars of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative projects. Huffman has a B.S. from Lake Superior State University, Michigan, and an M.S. from West Virginia University. Outside of work he enjoys spending time with family, camping, fishing, disc golf and reading.

 

 

Jeff Finn

Jeff Finn

Jeff Finn was born and raised in Hinckley, Ohio…yes, where the buzzards are. He was lucky enough to grow up where there wasn’t anything fun to do inside, so he and his brother spent most of their idle time outside doing what young boys do, or rather, what they should be doing and that is catching anything that crawls and trying to light whatever will burn, on fire. He said that it seemed like a good transition from there to working for the Service. Finn had some stops in between, like graduating from Ohio Wesleyan and Hocking College, a brief 4 years with Natural Resource Conservation Service in Pennsylvania, before arriving at Ottawa Refuge where he has spent the past 12 years as the Private Lands Biologist. Finn openly admits he is still trying to catch things that crawl and lighting whatever will burn, but now he is being paid for it. It does not get much better than that. Finn has two young boys, Walker who is 4, and Sawyer 5 who make him proud to be a dad, and he cannot forget his wife Angela who lives with three boys (him included) and two male dogs. The woman is a saint.

 

Joshua Bauer

Joshua Bauer

Joshua Bauer is a Federal Wildlife Officer and has been with the Service since 2015. Bauer provides Law Enforcement coverage for both Ottawa Refuge and Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. Bauer’s true passion is working with youth. He is the region’s Outreach Coordinator for law enforcement programs and serves as a veteran’s coordinator for Headquarters Division of Refuge Law Enforcement. Prior to joining the Service, Bauer worked three summers as a seasonal Water Patrol Officer for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Bauer is a U.S. Army veteran. In September 2009, Bauer joined the United States Army. He was a Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Specialist and was stationed in Hawaii. Bauer deployed to Iraq, from 2010-2011, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. Bauer spent four years on active duty and four years in the Iowa National Guard. He left the service with more awards than he can list, however the greatest honor was knowing that when this nation called he was ready for duty. Bauer is an Iowa native and enjoys all things outdoors.

 

 

Chuck Shier

Chuck Shier

Chuck Sheir has been the Maintenance Mechanic at Ottawa Refuge for four years. Prior to coming to Ottawa, Sheir worked at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, Loess Bluffs formally known as Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, Missouri, and Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota. He started his career eight years ago in the Student Temporary Employment Program and then was accepted into the Student Career Experience Program. Sheir has had some fantastic mentors throughout his career to get him to where he is today. He enjoys working on Maintenance Action Team projects and was fortunate enough to run his first project this summer. Sheir grew up hunting, fishing and trapping with his father, two brothers and sister. He and his siblings would go on daily adventures or visit the local watering hole on their neighbor’s 40 acres to explore and swim. He owes his passion for the outdoors to his dad who took the time to teach him all about the outdoors and hunting activities. At the age of 29 he finds himself exploring some of the western states looking for adventure. Sheir normally brings his side kick Willow, a fur ball of adrenaline and drive. She is primarily a waterfowl dog but has no problem flushing the occasional rooster. Sheir looks forward to continuing his career with the Service and taking advantage of exploring all of the bottomland hardwoods, prairies, swamps and mountain ranges he can. He will leave you with these closing remarks “One can stand proud and tall like the oak, take root and never see past the next hill top or take flight and migrate the world to see all of its natural wonders.” This world is yours, take care of it and enjoy it.

Ramsay Houze

Ramsay Houze

Ramsay Houze is a Maintenance Mechanic and started with the Service in 2010 as an intern at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, Indiana. Since then, he has worked through the Wage Grade Pathways Program and was placed at Mingo Refuge, moving on shortly after on to Ottawa refuge as a maintenance worker in 2016. Houze loves his job at Ottawa working on projects involving levy construction/repairs, mowing, vehicle/heavy equipment maintenance and repair, fabrication projects and various other duties. His favorite thing about being a maintenance worker on a wildlife refuge is there is a wide variety of task and projects. Outside of work he loves being in the outdoors, his favorite hobby is kayak fishing for all species of fish and hunting a variety of wild game.  

 

 

 

Christopher ‘Buck’ Buchanan

Christopher Buck Buchanan

Buck Buchanan joined the team at Ottawa refuge in April of 2017 as a Maintenance Worker. He is a father of three and married for 22 years to his wife, Jennifer. He is an Army veteran, soccer coach, guitar hero and firearms enthusiast. He loves Ottawa Refuge!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morgan Donaldson

Morgan Donaldson

Morgan Donaldson is currently the Biological Science Technician at Ottawa refuge. She graduated in 2017 from the University of Georgia with a B.S. in Forest Resources, emphasis on Wildlife Sciences. After graduation, she interned at Big Oaks refuge where she worked on crawfish frog research and habitat management, prescribed fire, Geographic Image System projects and deer hunts. Her time spent at Big Oaks was exceptional and she learned a great deal from her many mentors which sparked her interest in working for the refuge system. In the spring of 2018, she accepted a biological science technician position at Ottawa Refuge. In this position, she works closely with the biologist managing habitat through water manipulation and invasive species management, in addition to wildlife surveys and being the Youth Conservation Corps crew leader. She is grateful for the opportunity to work at Ottawa where she is able to see her favorite bird species, the Canada goose, daily.

 

 

Holly Walp

Holly Walp

Holly Walp recently graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Natural Resource Conservation and Wildlife Ecology. Prior to coming to the refuge, she was a wildlife biology intern on a privately-owned multi-purpose ranch in south Florida assisting the wildlife department. While there, she enjoyed the wide variety of tasks involved with managing 52 hunting leases and several gopher tortoise recipient sites. Currently, she is trying her hand with public land as the Hunt Program Coordinator assisting with controlled waterfowl and deer hunts on the refuge this fall. She is eager to explore career opportunities with the refuge system.

 

 

 

 

Joshua Booker

Joshua Booker

Joshua Booker has been a Zone Biologist in the Inventory and Monitoring branch of the Division of Natural Resources and Conservation Planning since February 2016. His role is to provide science support to over 25 national wildlife refuges, wetland management districts and private land offices in the Great Lakes and Eastern Broadleaf Forest Ecoregions of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. This includes helping field staff develop their inventory and monitoring plans, designing survey protocols, assisting with data analysis and using structured decision making to work through hard conservation problems. He also coordinates the Forest Invasives Adaptive Management (FIAM) project, and serves as the refuges Invasive Species Coordinator for the Midwest Region. Booker grew up in inner-city Milwaukee and moved across the pond for college at the University of Michigan where he earned B.S. degrees in Environmental Science and Anthropology-Zoology, and then Michigan State University where he earned an M.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife. He joined the Service in 2010, working on fish habitat restoration projects and aquatic invasive species management as a fisheries biologist at the Texas Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, Texas. In 2012, Booker transferred to the Ecological Services office in Texas to work on listing packages, species status assessments, recovery plans, five-year reviews, scientific permit application reviews various consultations. Outside of work, you can usually find Booker in a movie theater, in front of a Milwaukee Bucks game, birdwatching, cooking for his wife, six-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter.

Aimee Arent

Aimee Arent

Aimee Arent is the Executive Director of Friends of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Arent has been serving the refuge in various capacities since 2011 when she began volunteering through the Marsh Monitoring Program while attending Bowling Green State University, Ohio. This start led her to a Student Temporary Employment Program position with Ottawa refuge and then to position on the Friends Board of Directors. Now as one of two Friends staff members, Arent is proud to spread awareness of the refuge every day. As a seventh generation Northwest Ohioan, she is devoted to the Great Lakes and focused on preserving natural areas for future generations. In her spare time, she can be found along Lake Erie’s coastline hiking, fishing, biking and beach combing with her husband, Greg and Labrador retriever, Buck.

 

 

 

Catherine Traxler

Catherine Traxler

Catherine Traxler has served as manager of the Rookery Nature Store at Ottawa Refuge since 2016. She received her B.S. in History from Lourdes University, Ohio, in 2015. She enjoys spending time outdoors walking, birding and camping. She also enjoys taking photographs, especially of trees. Traxler was a Girl Scout from kindergarten through high school, which influenced her love of exploring the outdoors. Refuge Volunteer Tom Furry sparked her interest in birding after one of his famous eagle bus tours at Ottawa Refuge.

 

 

 

 

Last updated: October 10, 2018