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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Lifelong Love

 Kate Miyamoto
Miyamoto tallies a monarch. Photo by USFWS

Days spent outside chasing butterflies started Kate Miyamoto on the path of conservation; now she helps engage others

After 20 minutes of twists and turns on a gravel road, I arrived at a small building and parked next to a wall of grass. My watch read 8:00 a.m., but the sun was barely shining through the thick fog. I stepped out of my car and gazed at the surrounding prairie. Unlike Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I was definitely in Kansas.

Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Kansas lies in the heart of the Great Plains, in the center of the continental United States. The refuge is at an ecological crossroads, where eastern tallgrass prairie meets western shortgrass prairie. Its 22,135 acres feature a unique combination of rare inland salt marsh and sand prairie. More than 340 species of birds have been observed at the refuge, thanks to its rich habitat and location.

Monarch Mania

It was early, but people bustled around the Environmental Education Classroom building, the home base for Monarch Mania, an event at the refuge. Two large bins near the entrance of the building overflowed with dozens of butterfly nets.

Inside the small room, a group of people folded paper into butterfly shapes. A large chicken-wire cage filled with green leaves caught my eye. I approached the display and noticed the bright yellow and black stripes of a monarch caterpillar munching on its only food source, milkweed.

More than 100 native milkweed species exist in North America, but pesticide use, agricultural development and mowing along roadways have reduced milkweed across much of the monarch butterfly’s range. As a result, monarch populations are in decline. The Service is working with partners and the public to increase milkweed and nectar plants for monarchs across their range.

After a quick tutorial on how to tag monarchs, identify their sex and record important data, I was ready for Monarch Mania.

 Monarch ManiaMiyamoto’s first customer. Photo by USFWS

WHY I CONSERVE
  • From the Director: Why Jim Kurth Conserves
  • The Path That Chose Susan Jewell
  • For Don MacLean, Conservation Is Just ‘the Right Thing to Do’
  • Nothing Better for Biologist Michael Glenn
  • Alicia Protus Works ‘to Keep Every Cog and Wheel’ for Future Generations
  • Craig Springer on Impressionism and Native Trout
  • Intern Elizabeth Braatz Conserves for You and for Me
  • Beautiful Future Drives Student Deja Perkins
  • Intern Mikaela Oles Wants to Make Sure Everyone Has a Connection to Nature

The monarch butterfly is one of the most recognizable insects and undertakes one of the longest insect migrations in the world. Each fall, the eastern population travels up to 3,000 miles from Canada, through the United States, down to Mexico. During this migration, monarchs travel up to 250 miles per day. The monarch butterfly is an indicator species for pollinator health across the nation. Protecting the monarch and its migration benefits many other North American species, such as grassland birds and other pollinators.

At 9 a.m. the event officially began. I wore a bright orange vest to indicate I was an official monarch butterfly tagger and waited for visitors to bring me monarchs. A smiley, young boy in an orange T-shirt and blue jeans tucked into shark-adorned rain boots was my first customer.

He swung his net within my reach and I gently retrieved the monarch inside. In less than a minute, I recorded the sex of the butterfly and the number of the tag I would place on it, tagged the butterfly with the small round tag, and placed the monarch into the boy’s outstretched palm for release back into the wild. His face lit up as the monarch lingered for a moment before it fluttered its wings and took off. We watched it fly away and then he walked off, net in hand, to search for another monarch.

The next four hours passed quickly, and I tagged and recorded data for dozens of monarch. The thick fog from the early morning lifted, and by the end of the event at noon, the sun shone brightly.

Every visitor I saw wore a smile, happy for the chance to interact with the celebrated butterfly.

 Monarch A tagged monarch. Photo by USFWS

Tagging

People often ask, how do you tag a butterfly? The answer is, carefully! To tag a monarch, the butterfly is caught in a net. Next, you retrieve the monarch from the net by lightly grabbing its closed wings between two fingers. Make sure to hold the monarch’s wings at the leading edge, just above its head. The tags are tiny discs of polypropylene that are gently stuck on the monarch’s discal cell, a mitten-shaped cell on the underside of the hind wing at the butterfly’s center of lift and gravity, so not to impede its flight. Each tag weighs approximately 0.006 g— approximately 1.2 percent of the mass of an average monarch—and has a unique ID code and a phone number that people can call if they find one on a dead butterfly. These recoveries can provide critical information about the species’ migration, habitat and population status. Tagging monarchs is a great way for kids and adults to get involved in monarch conservation.

Quivira hosts the family-friendly Monarch Mania event every year to support Monarch Watch, educate the public about monarchs, encourage citizen science and connect kids with nature. Monarch Watch strives to provide the public with information about monarch butterflies, and engages in research on monarch migration biology and population dynamics to better understand how to conserve the monarch and their migration.

For the past seven years, Quivira visitor services specialist Barry Jones has run the event.

“This year was the 20th year the refuge has hosted this event,” says Jones. “I love seeing visitors’ enthusiasm to learn about and interact with monarch butterflies.”

In total, 303 monarch butterflies were tagged in just four hours. It was the second largest tagging total for the event; the highest was 400 in 2007.

At the end of the event, I felt connected to nature and more in awe of monarch butterflies. The experience brought back fond memories from my youth, when I frequently chased butterflies with my mom and sister in a field near our apartment in Texas. Those days started a lifelong love and appreciation for wildlife and conservation, and I hope the Monarch Mania event sparked that same love and appreciation in at least one young visitor that day.

KATE MIYAMOTO, External Affairs, Mountain-Prairie Region


Fish & Wildlife News  

Impressionism and Native Trout

   Rio Grande cutthroat troutSpringer with a native Rio Grande cutthroat trout. All photos courtesy of Craig Springer

A trip to a mountain stream as a boy keeps Craig Springer working for native species.

   shadow of Springer
A shadow of Springer hunting Mearns’ quail in Cibola National Forest in New Mexico.

I’m no art critic, but I know a good piece when I see it. Impressionistic paintings by the likes of Monet, Renoir and Degas certainly do impress me, but maybe not in the way you might think. Invariably to me these beautiful works in the genre appear unfinished, as though the artist lost the creative capital to complete the job or had to find wage work and didn’t come back to wrap up. To my mind, the genre blurs the contours between illusion and reality, and that is part of its allure.

I have a recollection of a day fishing many years ago that whenever I call it to mind, I summon an impressionistic scene in the opus behind my eyes: A tiny mountain creek pours over cream-colored marl in little pools and flat riffles of pea-sized gravels in water shallow enough to step in and not get your ankles wet. Sprigs of green and tan grasses lie beneath scrawny alder branches, drooping over the creek banks. Early-morning sunshine dapples like wet diamonds on the water and backlights a stand of tall, fat ponderosa pines in the flat bottoms. Dust and bugs aloft illuminated in sunlight waft in the quiet air. The sun rises sharply over a steep hillside where adventurous pinons cling to the striated layers of bare gray rock and fine volcanic tuff cones so common in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico.  Little trout as big as a young boy’s hand dash for the dark confines afforded by the streamside grasses after one of their own throws caution aside and bites a hook. The trout’s pint-sized wet body writhes in my palm; I can feel its cold muscles flex as it glistens back at me in flashes of silver over orange specks on an olive body. 

    Springer and daughterSpringer and daughter Willow hunt turkeys in the Manzano Mountains of New Mexico.

The wonder of that moment has never left me. That sense of marvel was inscribed on my psyche that day: A little piece of a cold mountain stream, slender enough in places to straddle, harbored colorful living creatures. The wonderment still feeds my desire to stay involved in conservation.

WHY I CONSERVE
  • From the Director: Why Jim Kurth Conserves
  • The Path That Chose Susan Jewell
  • For Don MacLean, Conservation Is Just ‘the Right Thing to Do’
  • Kate Miyamoto’s Lifelong Love
  • Nothing Better for Biologist Michael Glenn
  • Alicia Protus Works ‘to Keep Every Cog and Wheel’ for Future Generations
  • Intern Elizabeth Braatz Conserves for You and for Me
  • Beautiful Future Drives Student Deja Perkins
  • Intern Mikaela Oles Wants to Make Sure Everyone Has a Connection to Nature

My family made weekend forays into the Jemez Mountains when I was very young. We often visited this brook that coursed past a piece of property on which my great grandparents homesteaded beginning in the late 1890s. My granddad was born there in 1903, nearly a full decade before New Mexico was welcomed into the union. My great grandma held title to the parcel surrounded by Santa Fe National Forest until around 1935.  

I will never know this for sure, but I fancy that my folks caught native Rio Grande cutthroat trout from these waters before non-native trout species swamped the native fish. It’s easy for me to imagine the surprise and wonderment another would feel pulling a small trout from a dark undercut, its red underside appearing covered in blood as though its throat had been slit. I know from their own writings that my ancestors lived a hardscrabble life. My folks likely had very little time to for recreating, too busy ensuring they had the resources for the next day or next week or next season at this high-elevation homestead. Cold comes on early and stays late at 7,400 feet.

I have no illusion that my family would ever own this parcel of land again. And I have to square with the reality that trout, no matter the species, will probably not swim here again in my lifetime. A wildfire obliterated a large swath of forest six years ago, taking trees and trout and sending them into the stratosphere in towering anvil-headed plumes of smoke. A green forest turned into a gray moonscape that will surely take a long span of time to heal.

    Springer and sonSpringer with Eagle Scout son Carson at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

But longing is the heart’s treasury. I have a longing to see native trout in native habitats—a nostalgia for what was and what could be—to see Southwestern trout species swim in waters as nature would have it. Rio Grande cutthroat trout, Apache trout and Gila trout, all three of them naturally adorned the Southwestern landscape. They carry in their colors the imprint of nature. Pretty trout live in pretty places, and they own enough crimson, copper and cream that any impressionist would be pleased to paint them. Native trout conservation, like impressionism, is unfinished business.

Craig Springer, External Affairs, Southwest Region


Fish & Wildlife News  

Curator's Corner: Big Band Story

 cards

It is nice to know that we all still appreciate a good laugh. A 1975 edition of Fish & Wildlife News featured an article and photo of two Service biologists “banding the world’s largest Laysan albatross.” They were putting a fake band on a very large statue of an albatross on Midway Island. Some things never change, including silly articles from Service folk— like curators!


Jeanne M. Harold, curator of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Museum and Archives at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, says the history surrounding the objects in the museum gives them life.

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Curator's Corner: Another Child’s Favorite

   taxidermy wolf

I wrote an article earlier about the favorite taxidermied specimen in the archives storage room for children being the snowy owl because of Hedwig from the Harry Potter books. Well, I should also mention that there is another favorite stuffed animal in the archives for children who are a little older. Can you guess which animal that is? It is the wolf, and that is because of Jacob in the Twilight series of books. I bet if we had a stuffed vampire named Edward, it would certainly supplant both the owl and the wolf by a million votes!

Jeanne M. Harold, curator of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Museum and Archives at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, says the history surrounding the objects in the museum gives them life.

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Unique Partnership with the Oregon Zoo

   visitors at the Nature Exploration Station The center's Nature Exploration Station (NESt) is designed to help visitors understand how humans and nature depend on each other, focusing on the message that "small things matter." Photo by USFWS

The Service has officially “broken new ground” on an exciting way to effectively connect with the public and tell our Service story. We partnered with the Oregon Zoo in the development of the zoo’s new Education Center. The sustainably built, aesthetically pleasing center was designed to foster a conservation ethic among the zoo’s 1.6 million annual visitors. With a Service staffer on-site, the facility provides an opportunity to take the partnership a significant step further.

Opportunity Knocks

It all started in 2013 during a groundbreaking ceremony for a new exhibit at the Oregon Zoo called Condors of the Columbia, one of several projects on which the Service has partnered with the zoo over the years. Paul Henson, the Service’s Oregon state supervisor, was inspired by a conversation with Grant Spickelmier, the zoo’s education curator, who described a voter-approved bond measure to build a new state-of­the-art education facility. Henson saw a phenomenal opportunity to spread the conservation message to a broader, more diverse urban audience, and suggested to Spickelmier the idea of having a Service employee stationed at the Education Center. This small spark of an idea led to a unique partnership, the first of its kind for the Service.

   grand openingKids visiting the zoo "cut" the ribbon at the grand opening ceremony on March 2. Photo by USFWS

“Joining the Oregon Zoo in their new Education Center is a natural extension of our shared conservation mission and an innovative way for the Service to connect with a broader audience,” says Henson. “We have a long history of working together to recover species, and now we look forward to continuing our collective efforts on an education mission to tell the wildlife conservation story and to build a strong conservation ethic in present and future generations.”

Spickelmier adds, “The Oregon Zoo is thrilled to have the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partner with us at the zoo’s new Education Center. Having USFWS scientists and educators work directly with the zoo’s 1.6 million guests greatly increases our ability to raise awareness about wildlife conservation and inspire conservation action.”

  Leah Schrodt
Leah Schrodt, a Service interpretive specialist, is stationed at the Education Center. Photo by USFWS

A New Way of Reaching Out

The high visibility of the Oregon Zoo provides an ideal venue to tell the story of fish and wildlife conservation to visitors from a variety of economic, racial and cultural backgrounds.

“Small Things Matter” is the primary theme of the Education Center, which includes small creatures, small habitats and small actions people can take. The center helps visitors learn that nature  is closer than they think, even in urban areas. Visitors walk away with direct application for how they, too, can protect wildlife. Key features of the center  include a Nature Exploration Station with hands-on activities, interpretive displays and daily presentations from subject specialists; a wildlife garden with information about pollinators, native plants and ways the public can transform their yard into a place for wildlife, a Western pond turtle recovery lab; a 150­seat hall; and three classrooms, including a science lab.

The Service’s decision to station a full-time interpretive specialist at the zoo, working hand-in-hand with zoo staff in the development of activities, displays and programs designed to communicate our shared conservation messages, is a first for our agency. Leah Schrodt was selected for this role, and serves as a liaison to a broad range of Service experts. She works to draw out and share their wealth of conservation knowledge in areas such as endangered species, fisheries, pollinators, wildlife refuges, invasive species, law enforcement, wildlife forensics and much more.

And it won’t be just Oregon staff. Service experts from across the nation will have an opportunity to come to the center and talk about the important work of the Service and our conservation mission.

“The Oregon Zoo Education Center is an ideal venue for instilling a stewardship ethic in the public we serve,” says Schrodt. “The true spirit of collaboration, and what can be accomplished when we work together in partnership to achieve our conservation goals, is beautifully modeled in this endeavor.”

A History of Partnership

The Service has developed partnerships with a number of zoos and aquariums across the nation. These relationships are critical to our recovery work as we rely on zoo expertise in species propagation and animal husbandry for reintroductions. The Oregon Zoo has assisted our efforts to recover many endangered species:

The zoo houses one of four California condor breeding facilities, which produces more than 30 birds annually, most of which are released into the wild. Birds that cannot be released make their home in the Condors of the Columbia exhibit, which educates visitors about the bird’s plight.

The Oregon Zoo and Woodland Park Zoo (in Seattle, Washington) participate in a project to help vulnerable hatchling Western pond turtles evade predators. More than 1,800 turtles have been released to suitable sites. Western pond turtles are protected in several states.

In 2002, only 16 pygmy rabbits remained in Washington. Soon after, the Oregon Zoo developed a breeding program and was the first zoo in the world to successfully breed pygmy rabbits. While the zoo’s breeding program concluded in 2012, it continues to actively participate in pygmy rabbit conservation efforts.

Oregon silverspot butterfly numbers crashed in 1998, prompting the Service to begin efforts to supplement the population in partnership with the Oregon and Woodland Park zoos. The zoos are able to release about 2,000 butterflies each year on the Oregon Coast. The Oregon Zoo also helps rear and release Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, a threatened species.

The Oregon Zoo and various partners work collaboratively with the Service to monitor, study and recover populations of Oregon spotted frog, which was recently protected under the ESA.

   Fish and Wildlife Service biologists with visitorsFish and Wildlife Service biologists Shauna Ginger and Jennifer Siani share the "Skins, Scats, Skulls and Footprints" education kit with visitors during the grand opening weekend. Photo by USFWS

In 1998, the Service signed an official memorandum of understanding with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to work together for the conservation of native North American animals, plants and their habitats, and to educate the American public about the biological, economic and aesthetic contributions these species make to our quality of life. This partnership with the Oregon Zoo shows what can be accomplished when the Service works with zoos and aquariums to achieve our conservation missions.

For more information about the Service’s Education Center partnership at the Oregon Zoo, please contact Leah Schrodt: leah_schrodt@fws.gov.

ELIZABETH MATERNA, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, and LEAH SCHRODT, Interpretive Lead for Oregon Zoo Partnership, Pacific Region


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Curator's Corner: Extra Antlers

   antlers

If you have ever been to the National Conservation Training Center, I am sure that you have noticed the elk antler chandelier in the back windowed area in the bar. I got the antlers from special agents in Richmond, Virginia. I had the chandelier made by a local taxidermist, Tom Flynn. There were many other antlers left over, and the special agents did not need them back. They said we could put them in the woods for the little woodland critters to chew on for calcium. I still have them in the archives, because I figured that, with my luck, hikers at the facility would see them and spread rumors that West Virginia now has a large population of elk.

Jeanne M. Harold, curator of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Museum and Archives at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, says the history surrounding the objects in the museum gives them life.

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Curator's Corner: Organization!

 cards Recently, we received a collection of IDs, awards and old purchasing credit cards from an employee, probably now retired, from a fish hatchery in Washington State. They were in perfect condition but expired. He had saved about a dozen of the cards as far back as 1983. This is a testament to how organized the gentleman who saved them was. Wow, I bet those fish swam in line at that fish hatchery! P.S. I always cut up my credit cards when they expire.

Jeanne M. Harold, curator of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Museum and Archives at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, says the history surrounding the objects in the museum gives them life.

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Fish and Wildlife Service Supports Men and Women in Law Enforcement

badgeIf a picture is worth a thousand words, sometimes an object can be priceless – not in terms of dollars and cents, but for the principles it represents, and the emotions it recalls. It’s like that with law enforcement badges. 

A few years ago, our museum at NCTC received a donation of old badges. One shot-up badge dates from the time of Edgar Lindgren, the first law enforcement officer in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service history killed in the line of duty. In 1922, just three weeks after taking a game warden position, Lindgren approached three men near Big Lake, Iowa, suspecting them of shooting a bittern out of season. They killed him for it.

We may never know for sure if it is Lindgren’s badge – no records exist – but what a powerful symbol that badge is. It is, of course, a shield – a representation of an officer’s commitment to protect people and wildlife. Whether it is Lindgren’s or that of another officer who came under fire, the damaged badge also embodies the risk Special Agents and Federal Wildlife officers willingly accept to protect the world’s natural resources. 

As we celebrate National Police Week, I hope we all remember to thank our friends and co-workers who defend everyone’s right to enjoy the outdoors. As a former refuge law enforcement officer, I know their work is often dangerous, lonely, and unsung. Sadly, Edgar Lindgren is not the only wildlife law enforcement officer whose name appears on our Fallen Comrades Memorial, which honors employees who have made the ultimate sacrifice. I keep a replica of the damaged badge on display in my office as a constant reminder of the sacrifices our officers make. 

RELATED: Midwest Region Federal Wildlife Officer of the Year Rob Hirschboeck  | Northeast Region Federal Wildlife Officer of the Year John Ross

As moving as the badge is, perhaps an even more fitting tribute to the men and women of our law enforcement ranks took place recently at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota, where 48 youngsters took part in a daylong camp to learn what it takes to become a conservation officer.  And if the participants of the Youth Game Warden Camp are any indication, the outdoors will be well-protected in the future. Said camp organizer and Federal Wildlife Officer Kelly Modla, the kids “come with lots of enthusiasm and questions, and just tear it up.” 

campers and FWS officerAn officer shows campers tools of the trade. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS

Actually, the most appropriate tribute may be from 12-year-old camper Hannah, who said: “I’ve been camping and being outside with my family since before I could walk, and I’ve been hunting for about two years now. I’d love to grow up and be a game warden and teach people how to have respect for wildlife.” 

Thank you, Hannah. If you’re among the best and brightest, we will surely welcome you into our law enforcement family. And thank you, officers. I know some of the work you do appears thankless, but conservation relies on you.

 

-Jim Kurth, Acting Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Livers of the Rivers

   musselsMussels help keep water clean. Photo by USFWS

Freshwater mussels may lack charisma, as they look like nothing more than rocks. But that belies the natural wonders of their life-history and their incredibly important role in the ecology of streams and the people and economies that rely on the same water. Work getting underway in Texas holds promise for mussels in most need.

Stakeholder collaboration aims to benefit freshwater mussels in Texas


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Oil Spill Funds Help Protect Shorebird Nesting and Improve Monarch Habitat

 piping plovers  Piping plovers can be too camouflaged. Photo by Kaiti Titherington/USFWS

The sparkling beaches of Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama attract visitors of all shapes and size—and species. Bon Secour’s beaches and dunes are visited not only by tens of thousands of people each year but also by the many kinds of wildlife our refuge managers are charged with protecting and preserving every day. On any warm spring day at Bon Secour, you may find sunbathers, swimmers, nature lovers, birds, beach mice, crabs, foxes, insects and scores of others.

RELATEDr: Gulf of Mexico Avian Monitoring Network

Shorebirds also love Bon Secour, and those visiting and nesting on the refuge are some of the beneficiaries of a restoration project being funded by a landmark $20 billion settlement with the petroleum giant BP for the damage caused by 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The spill not only deposited oil on the beaches of Bon Secour Refuge but also triggered cleanup work that disturbed wildlife habitat along the refuge’s beaches and dunes. “After the spill, we calculated that as many as 102,000 birds were killed by the oil spill, either by exposure to the oil or by encounters with cleanup activities,” says Kate Healy, a Service restoration biologist. “That’s why the Service has worked so hard to create projects that restore and protect bird habitat along the Gulf Coast.”

  sign Signs at Bon Secour alert visitors. Photo by American Bird Conservancy

The Service is working with The American Bird Conservancy at Bon Secour to complete a shorebird project aimed at protecting nesting areas used by least terns, snowy plovers, American oystercatchers, black skimmers and other shorebirds. The partners are posting warning signs and erecting temporary fencing around key nesting and foraging sites. “It’s important to warn people that nests, eggs and chicks are in the area. They’re easy to miss because they’re naturally camouflaged—they blend in very well with the sand and shells around them,” Healy explains. “While their camouflage may foil predators such as foxes and raccoons, it makes them almost invisible to beachgoers.” Work this year will complete the five-year effort.

monarch caterpillar in milkweed   A monarch caterpillar crawls on milkweed at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS

Although not injured by the spill, monarch butterflies will benefit from a dune restoration project at Bon Secour that will also help beach mice and reptiles, including lizards and snakes.

The dune project includes re-vegetation of disturbed dunes with native plants, including milkweed, a plant that plays a vital role in the conservation of monarch populations. “We’re encouraging people everywhere to do as much as they can to save monarchs by planting native milkweed,” says Ben Frater, assistant restoration manager for the Department of the Interior’s Gulf Restoration effort. “At Bon Secour, we’re doing our part to improve the butterflies’ habitat there. By winter 2017, we expect to plant hundreds of seedlings along the refuges’ dunes.”

These are just two early projects in the effort to restore the natural vitality of the Gulf. Many more are coming.

NANCIANN REGALADO, Gulf Restoration Team, Southeast Region


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