Newsroom Midwest Region

New leadership announced for Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

May 23, 2018

Sarena Selbo enjoying time afield in Alaska. Photo by Mitch Ellis/USFWS.
Sarena Selbo enjoying time afield in Alaska. Photo by Mitch Ellis/USFWS.

We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Region are pleased to announce that Sarena Selbo will be the new project leader for Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota. Selbo has walked a diverse and far-ranging career path from places as far away as Alaska. Her experience at the field, regional and national levels of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as her prior experience working at the state level, gives Selbo broad exposure to what makes national wildlife refuges relevant to all Americans.

Selbo has first-hand experience in applied science and also sees the benefits of understanding the human connection with real places like Minnesota Valley. She looks for opportunities to partner with individuals and organizations across cultures and doesn’t shy away from complex issues. Selbo has been the Assistant Regional Director of Science Applications for the past year, based in Anchorage, Alaska where she focused her energies on large landscape conservation with state and tribal partners. Prior to that, Selbo was the Deputy Chief of Refuges for three years, leading the Visitor Services, Natural Resources, Realty, Law Enforcement, Fire Management, Budget and Facilities Programs for 79 million acres across 16 Alaska National Wildlife Refuges.

“The Midwest Region is fortunate to have Sarena joining our ranks. Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is one of the region’s most visible and important national wildlife refuges,” said Regional Chief of Refuges Charlie Blair.

“Located in the Minnesota River Valley, close to the confluence with the Mississippi River and in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, the refuge plays an important role in providing outdoor experiences for thousands of visitors each year. We know Sarena’s leadership will provide the guidance needed to address the complexity and challenges facing this important refuge,” continued Blair.

Growing up in Fargo, North Dakota, with a strong love of the outdoors and fond memories of camping with her family as a kid, Selbo feels that getting kids outside is essential. She credits time playing in the fields of her grandparent’s farm for fostering her love of nature.

“I’m excited to join the team at Minnesota Valley and hope to build upon the history of strong partnerships and community engagement, while exploring new opportunities to expand wildlife recreation, education and conservation opportunities in this unique urban refuge,” said Selbo.

Selbo began her career with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources as an ecologist working on inventory and monitoring programs throughout the state of Ohio. Her work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began in 2002 at the Ohio Ecological Services Field Office in Columbus, Ohio. Later, Selbo worked in the Mountain-Prairie Region as the Section 7 Coordinator for the Ecological Services program. Selbo feels that her experience balancing conservation with wise land-use will help her in her new role as project leader.

Prior to moving to Alaska in 2014, Selbo worked in headquarters as the Branch Chief for Conservation Planning for the National Wildlife Refuge System, where she furthered the agency’s vision for strategic planning and conservation design. Selbo completed her B.S. in Biology at the University of North Dakota, where she became enamored with native prairies and intrigued by leafy spurge and other invasive plants. Later, Selbo completed her M.S. in Ecology and Evolution from The Ohio State University and focused on the interplay of native versus restored grasslands and wetlands.

Selbo will be reporting to her new position this June and will be relocating with her husband and sons. Outside of work, Selbo’s a soccer and nordic skiing mom of two active boys. With extended family in Minnesota, she and her family have long enjoyed Minnesota’s lakes - from fishing and bird watching, to swimming and canoeing. She can’t wait to hear loons on the water again.