A Talk on the Wild Side.
Megan saw elephants!
When preparing for her recent trip to South Africa, Megan Reed, a Special Assistant in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), told folks that she wasn’t coming back until she saw an elephant in the wild. She saw plenty, but it turns out that wasn’t the highlight of her trip.
Reed was in Johannesburg for part of September and October to take part in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 17th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Youth Forum for People and Wildlife that preceded it.
The youth forum brought together 34 young adults (18-25 years old) from 25 countries who are working on wildlife issues to discuss conservation (more tuned in online.). “Being surrounded by so many young people who are all working to conserve species was a very inspiring and humbling moment,” Reed says. It got even better.
Megan and Director Ashe at CITES.
Recognizing that educating and connecting the next generation of conservation leaders is key to success, the United States introduced a document at CoP17 to encourage youth participation in CITES. Reed had the privilege of presenting it to the 3,000 attendees.
“It’s not my favorite experience because I was able to speak to so many people from all over the world or because it was well-received and accepted by other countries,” she says. “It’s my favorite because as I introduced it, I was sitting with the USFWS Director, Associate Director and Assistant Director of International Affairs, and I could feel how much they value engaging the younger generation.”
Megan and lots of USFWS folks.
“Their support that day was more than I could ask for, and showed not only me, but other countries how important youth are in conservation and that we are stakeholders of these resources, too.”
The member nations of CITES agreed, adopting the resolution Reed introduced. The move sets CITES on a clear path to ensure that the voices of youth are heard in this vitally important conservation forum.
And it’s not as though seeing elephants in the wild was bad. It was “one of the most memorable moments of my trip,” she says, in part because of her earlier attendance at the USFWS Ivory Crush in Times Square in 2015. Reed put a piece of ivory onto the belt to be crushed, “showing that ivory has zero value as an ornament.”
“Remembering that moment as I witnessed elephants in the wild was powerful and strengthened my commitment to conservation,” she says.
That commitment took root early in her life as a result of her family moving every two years because her dad was in the military. In every new state or country, Reed says, “I always found it interesting how places and animals could be so different, yet have so many similarities.”
She remembers “sitting on my grandma’s porch with my great uncle, and we would watch monarch butterflies land on him. I was mesmerized by every creature, big and small.”
Reed didn’t know it then, she says, “because I didn’t realize someone could have a job saving these animals and the places they live, but looking back, it was pretty obvious I would work in a conservation field.” She soon found out about conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
By now, though still young, Reed, could be considered a veteran of conservation work. She started her career with the USFWS when she was just 16 at Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge in her hometown of Warsaw, Virginia, doing such things as leading nature walks and conducting bobwhite surveys. She also worked at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts and Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in New York before taking on her current position in Washington, DC, as Special Assistant to both the Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System and the Assistant Director for External Affairs.
These jobs have enabled Reed to use her degrees in Wildlife and Fisheries Science and Public Administration and have helped her on the path to her “dream job”: conducting landscape conservation and working on conservation policy. “It is extremely important to look at conservation on a landscape scale,” she says, “because the wildlife we conserve don’t necessarily stay in one place or know political boundaries.”
These jobs have given her many memorable experiences, including “helping provide veterinary treatment to Sonoran pronghorn antelope, teaching the next generation about archery, and shadowing every refuge manager I’ve worked for.” And while her work supporting youth engagement at CITES is currently her favorite conservation moment, who knows what the future holds? All Reed knows is that it is going to be good.
Megan and Director Ashe at CITES.
“I'm not sure what will be around the next corner, but I'm excited to continue my career with the Service because of its conservation mission and dedication to young professionals like myself.”
And wherever her career takes her, rest assured that Reed’s voice, and that of all young people, will be an important part of the usfws’s conservation conversations. “Our leadership truly understands that these resources belong to my generation just as much as they belong to everyone else.”
-- Matt Trott, External Affairs