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A Talk on the Wild Side.

National Volunteer Week Celebration of Service: Brynn Garner #WeAreUSFWS

woman in mask works in garden with othersBrynn interns at a local garden as part of an agriculture course. “I absolutely fell in love with gardening. Nothing compares to the feeling of running your hands through the soil.” All photos courtesy Brynn Garner

This past year has presented countless challenges for people all over the world, with social distancing and remote living becoming the new normal. However, even during these historic times, the world has continued to carry on and find ways to adapt and overcome – and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service volunteers  are no exception.

As National Volunteer Week celebrates its 47th year, we honor all the incredible volunteers who keep our communities going, even through hardships and challenges. Volunteers play a critical role in achieving the mission of the Service, dedicating their time and energy to furthering conservation goals. Having volunteers allows us to complete projects that might otherwise be impossible.

To kick off National Volunteer Week, we highlight a woman that embodies the very essence of service and commitment: Brynn Garner.

Headshot of young woman with garden in backgroundOriginally from Wilmington, North Carolina, and now pursuing a dual-degree program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Brynn has long held a passion for conservation and storytelling. She is set to graduate next month with her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and history and will complete her master’s in strategic communications in 2022.

Brynn joined the Service as an intern in the summer of 2020, in the middle of difficult times for both the Service and the world. Rather than enjoying her summer internship in sunny Colorado and visiting beautiful and diverse landscapes that stretch from Montana to Kansas, Brynn had to find creative ways to make it work from her home in North Carolina.

And that she did. Brynn immediately distinguished herself as a resilient and dedicated professional, earning respect from not just her team, but from people all over the Service. Brynn was tasked with a new storytelling campaign called “Field in Five Photos,” which aimed to elevate the stories and voices from around the field. Already an ambitious project, Field in Five was made even more challenging in light of COVID-19 and the ensuing pressures on field work.

Brynn persevered and published 11 Field in Five stories in her 8-week internship, in addition to three extra employee profiles. She launched the campaign from the ground up and developed guides, instructions, and the tools needed to make it a success.

cat stares at laptop screenDoing a remote internship had one perk, Brynn says. “My cats, Mercy and Oliver, were by my side throughout the entire summer. Mercy always tried to provide moral support.” 

But she wasn’t done yet. After spending her summer with the Service, Brynn and her team realized that they couldn’t be so easily parted. Unwilling to let go of such a valuable member of the team, her colleagues petitioned Brynn to consider staying on through the fall. Brynn's passion and dedication led her to volunteer her time and talents after her internship had come to an end.  

"Brynn is one of the most resilient, talented, and passionate people I have had the pleasure of working with. Brynn is so dedicated to her work and has a way of telling stories that not only captures audiences but inspires conservation in others. Most importantly, Brynn brings joy and light to everything she does. That skill is so hard to quantify, but you feel it in everything she does." - Roya Mogadam, Brynn’s supervisor and self-proclaimed #1 fan

Brynn has produced several more Field in Five stories as a volunteer.  Check out Brynn’s portfolio.

Brynn has spent the last several years in service to her communities and has earned many titles among her friends and peers (such as resident fire marshal, floodmaster, pun genius, ham sandwich addict, and zombie bait), but her talent as a creative and engaging writer is what makes Brynn so adept at storytelling. Want to be in on the inside jokes behind the aforementioned titles, check out her blog – which started out as a class assignment, but has become a great showcase of Brynn’s talent.

woman stands on lawn on blanket in yoga poseBrynn in a special Garden Yoga session.

Before joining the Service, Brynn worked with several campus organizations and nonprofits, serving as a communications intern for Edible Campus, a marketing director for Carolina Fever, and a yoga instructor (sort of) for the North Carolina Botanical Garden. Brynn also spent a hot, demanding, yet rewarding summer in Costa Rica as a volunteer for the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, working on sea turtle conservation, and is a member of the Greening Youth Foundation.

2 photos of woman with hawk. In left one it sits on heR gloved hand outside. in right one it sits on counter and she holds black object up to itBrynn got started in wildlife conservation in high school as a volunteer at the Cape Fear Raptor Center where she helped rescue, rehabilitate, and release injured birds of prey. Pictured with two red-tailed hawks. “I loved having the chance to rehabilitate injured birds and tell the public about how awesome they are.”

No word better describes Brynn Garner than selfless; every team call, every group project – Brynn is there. Ever reliable and willing to jump in, Brynn has become an irreplaceable member of her team and the Service thanks her for her commitment to conservation. Without volunteers like Brynn, we would not be as effective in our mission to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

Brynn in Five Photos

4 Blue-footed boobies on rocks on shoreBlue-footed boobies on the Galapagos Islands in 2019. “Absolutely my favorite animal. When I finally got to see one in the Galapagos, it felt like a dream come true. I may or may not have shed a few tears.”

young stands with older oneBrynn with Jane Goodall in 2019. “Getting to meet my hero was one of the highlights of my life. She is incredible and has always inspired me to be a conservationist.”

young woman near tortoiseBrynn with a tortoise on the Galapagos Islands.

person outside in front of building, using tool on a bench   Brynn works a belt sander at the North Carolina Botanical Garden.

Fun fact: Brynn is a classically trained Ballerina, in case she wasn’t busy enough.

  woman in long white dress dances ballet

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