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A Talk on the Wild Side.

#WeAreUSFWS: Jennifer Chin, Duck Stamp Office Program Assistant

2 photos: left is of woman with owl on gloved hand; right is of smiling woman holding turtle in palmsJennifer with Eurasian eagle owl, Mr. Hoots, and holding a baby box turtle in 2017 when she helped the Patuxent Research Refuge Bio team. All photos courtesy Jennifer Chin

Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up and what was your family life like?

I grew up in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I remember my childhood as always being around extended family. I have 11 cousins and I feel like we got together at least once a month to celebrate someone’s birthday! I have a sister and a brother that I am super close to and each year we would go on vacations that ranged from Disney World, Universal Studios, cruises to Mexico, and visiting extended family.

2 photos: First of 3 kids, 2 girls and a boy;2nd of girl climbing on sittingman Jennifer and her siblings were all dressed up for Easter service when they were young children. At right, spending time with her Gong Gong, which is grandfather in Chinese.

How did you get into the outdoors and conservation?

My grandparents had a lake house in Southern Maryland where we would visit each summer. I learned how to fish using a rod of bamboo and fishing line with a sinker. I loved being outdoors and then in second grade I joined Girl Scouts and completed my Bronze, Silver, and Gold awards. My family would go camping each year, and it was always a great adventure! My favorite outdoor activities were taking walks, fishing, and just being able to soak up the sun.

Did your family support your career choice and nurture it? What do they think about you now?

2 photos: woman sitting on floor wit kids in circle around her and outdoors with butterfly on armJennifer with children between the ages of 5 and 7 as she teaches an interpretive class at Patuxent Research Refuge.  Jennifer releasing a monarch butterfly at Patuxent.

Growing up, my parents and grandparents wanted me to be a lawyer or doctor, you know, the traditional careers you hear about. But in 7th grade I knew I wanted to do something in the environmental field. I wanted to be a marine biologist, because of a career day where a woman spoke about her experiences and I also wanted to do that. But in 10th grade, I wanted to be a meteorologist. I was fascinated by clouds and hurricanes. I studied environmental science in college and got my first internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, Maryland, and immediately fell in love with the education and interpretation work I did.

My family was super supportive. They had both worked in the federal government. Now they are so happy that I am in a job that I love!

How did you get started with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?

Woman next to sign that says, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Department of the InteriorJennifer visits Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware.

My first internship opportunity was at Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, Maryland, as an Interpretation and Environmental Education Intern. That is where I realized I loved working with the public. We got to host fishing days, mini camps, and monthly programs for visitors. After college I worked for the Walt Disney Company at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. That’s where I gained all of the skills I would ever need to provide the best customer service.

I then moved back home to Maryland and worked at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center as a contractor with USGS [U.S. Geological Survey]. Then I ventured to the other coast and went to work with the National Park Service on Alcatraz in San Francisco, California. I then came back home to work as a Recreation Assistant at Patuxent Research Refuge, again. During that time I attended the USFWS Foundations course at the National Conservation Training Center, and that’s when I learned that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not just about refuges, but there are so many more divisions. Finally, I got a permanent job with Migratory Birds and I am so happy to be working for the Duck Stamp Office!

Have you always loved birds or are you are you learning to love them now that you work for the Migratory Bird Program?

So I always loved birds, but my USGS supervisor is the person who helped me love being a birder. He would help me identify birds as easy as red-winged blackbirds. And then my supervisor at Patuxent was an avid birder and would go on short walks and help staff identify birds. I checked off many “life birds” by going on walks with her.

I think now, I really enjoy raptors the most. I have bought a few bird guides and hope that I can become better over time!

Woman in front of wall with sign that says, Reelfoot/ National Wildlife Refuge/Headquarters and Visitor Center,” next to FWS logo that says, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Department of the InteriorJennifer and her boyfriend took a road trip in 2018 where they drove west to Illinois, down to the Gulf, and back up the East Coast. This is one of the many national wildlife refuges she visited, Reelfoot in Tennessee.

One of my new goals is to see my favorite birds at national wildlife refuges. Since I started working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I’ve actually been trying to visit a refuge in each state. And since working for the Duck Stamp Program, I am still trying to visit a refuge in each state, but hopefully one that gained acreage from Duck Stamp dollars!

Why are conservation and public service important to you?

I love conservation because this is the only planet that can sustain our life. We need to protect it for future generations. Also, there are just so many amazing animals and plants that I continually learn about each day. Why wouldn’t I want to protect something so fascinating?

Woman sitting in front of sign that says, Savannah/ National Wildlife Refuge/ Visitor Center/Savannah Coastal Refures Complex Headquarters,” next to DOI logo that says Department of the Interior March 3, 1849, and FWS logo that says, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Department of the InteriorJennifer at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge during the long road trip in 2018.

Public service is also important because it this is where we are able to provide the public with information on things they are trying to learn more about. Or make them aware of information they might not have known.

So together, teaching the public about conservation and how we need to protect our shared lands, or explain why they are protected and then have them go home and teach others the importance, is why I love my job. I hope that whenever I teach someone something new, it helps impact their life, even if it’s so tiny, that they are able to share their enthusiasm with someone else and it keeps getting passed on.


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