Working for Wildlife


Day 2 FedEd volunteer
(Photo: USFWS)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees who are entrusted to be stewards of our nation’s wildlife refuges work hard to ensure a healthy future for wildlife and people. They are on the front lines innovating ways to conserve and restore America’s wild heritage. They look for ways improve outdoor experiences for hunters, anglers, photographers and families. Their work is not only important; it’s also cool. Sometimes they get up close and personal with wildlife. They travel to remote locales many of us will never see firsthand. This photo essay features some employees briefly describing their work.

Condor Watcher

Molly Astell
Molly Astell is a wildlife biologist. She works with Bitter Creek and Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuges on efforts to recover the endangered California condor.
(Left photo Lisa Cox/USFWS, right USFWS)

Basics of her job: Monitor California condors to help ensure their survival. It involves rappelling into cliffside nests, trapping and examining adult birds, setting up and maintaining nest cameras, and hiking rugged terrain to look for released and wild birds.

Why the job is important: “We are working with a species that once was down to 22 birds, and it’s taken a lot of dedicated people a long time to ensure California condors were not lost forever.” (There are now about 265 condors in the wild.)

Why the job is cool: “I get to work with the largest land bird in North America in wild, beautiful landscapes.”

Canine Cop

Darryn Witt
Darryn Witt is a federal wildlife canine officer. He and his four-legged partner, Rudi, are based in Illinois at Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. Witt is national coordinator of the canine law enforcement program. (Photo: USFWS)

Basics of his job: Protect the natural resources of national wildlife refuges and serve the people who visit them. This is accomplished through foot, boat, and vehicle patrol, making contacts with individuals and groups, and monitoring all activities and their impacts to the refuge.  

Why the job is important: “We are Mother Nature’s sheep dogs. We are always on watch. When threats to the refuge or the people enjoying it arise, we respond.” 

Why the job is cool: “I get to work with the most dedicated and loyal creatures on the planet, federal wildlife canines. These highly motivated and intelligent animals make for perfect patrol partners.”  

Hawaiian Horticulturist

Baron Horiuchi
Baron Horiuchi, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s only horticulturist, is based at Hawaii’s Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge. Laulima means “many hands working together” in Hawaiian. (Photo: Megan Nagel/USFWS)

Basics of his job: To collect native plant seeds from refuge lands, germinate them, grow them in an on-site refuge greenhouse and plant them with the help of volunteer groups to reforest abandoned pasture land and to restore endangered native plant species. 

Why the job is important: “I am a local guy who was born and raised here, and I have this opportunity to help keep Hawaii’s forest and wildlife around for our children and their children to enjoy.”

Why the job is cool: “I get to work with people who have the same heartfelt goals and a tremendous appreciation for our nation’s wildlife.”

Urban Conservationists

Lamar Gore
Lamar Gore, left, is manager at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum in Philadelphia. He is also co-founder of the Career Discovery Internship Program. Tajuan Levy, right, is a maintenance worker at the refuge. He was hired through that program. (Photos: USFWS)

Basics of Levy’s job: To keep things running and working properly. The job involves knowing a little of all the trades – electrical work, plumbing, carpentry, etc.

Why the job is important: “We make sure the grounds, boardwalks and trails are safe for people and animals.”

Why the job is cool: “I’ve worked at four refuges. I get to travel to different locations nationally and learn new things every day.”

Gore on the Career Discovery Internship Program: “It’s not the only way to engage culturally and ethnically diverse groups, but it has been very effective in helping us to introduce these students to the Fish and Wildlife Service, give our supervisors experience working with other groups, and add to our applicant pools. That said, it’s not the program that is the success, but the components of it: the mentors, support of leadership and supervisors, strong partnership with our recruitment partner [the Student Conservation Association], and the students taking a risk on us.”

Prairie Pothole Pilot

Brian Lubinski
Brian Lubinski is a wildlife biologist/pilot based in the Midwest Region office in Bloomington, Minnesota. He regularly takes to the sky over national wildlife refuges and wetland management districts in the Prairie Pothole Region to monitor how they are being conserved.  (Photos: USFWS)

Basics of his job: To use aviation to advance conservation on the ground.

Why the job is important: “Aviation is a force multiplier, advancing conservation at scales not otherwise possible. Not only do I have the privilege of serving the taxpayer as a public servant with a tool that brings a great conservation return for the investment, but I am also fortunate to serve our field station employees by developing innovative airborne solutions to complex conservation problems.”

Why the job is cool: “I get to see the resources we all cherish from an office view anyone would love to have.”

Caribbean Seabird Expert

Ricardo Colon-Merced
Ricardo Colon-Merced is a wildlife biologist at Culebra National Wildlife Refuge in Puerto Rico. Here he is examining a white-tailed tropicbird chick, or polluelo de chirre coliblanco. He works throughout the Caribbean Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex. (Photo: USFWS)

Basics of his job: Monitoring the health and population of seabird colonies at Culebra National Wildlife Refuge and restoring habitat. This includes overseeing one of the biggest sooty tern colonies in the Caribbean. 

Why the job is important: “I help provide a safe area to the wildlife of Culebra island. Many of species come from distant places just to nest and reproduce here.”

Why the job is cool: “I get to go to places where few people can and work with species and extraordinary habitats and landscapes that others don’t even know exist.”

Visitor and Volunteer Wrangler

Lisa Hupp
Lisa Hupp is an outreach specialist at Alaska’s Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. (Photos: USFWS)

Basics of her job: Connecting people with refuge wildlife, wild lands and programs. She also oversees the refuge’s volunteer program, which is a great way for people to enjoy their public lands.

Why the job is important: “Kodiak Refuge is a place of dramatic landscapes, iconic wildlife, and amazing remote recreation opportunities. Helping people access and discover the refuge – whether in person or virtually – can build support for conservation.”

Why the job is cool: “I love sharing excitement with people about their experiences: a visitor who watches a Kodiak bear catch a salmon, a young volunteer who bands her first bird, or an online conversation about wildlife photography – there are so many great moments.”

Flame Tamer

Reggie Forcine
Reggie Forcine is an assistant fire management officer at Georgia’s Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. (Photos: USFWS)

Basics of his job: Co-manage the refuge’s fire program. This includes working on budget matters and leading a team that enhances public safety by fighting wildfires and planning prescribed (controlled) fires.

Why the job is important: “Okefenokee is like no other place on earth. Natural beauty and wilderness character prevail. The vision of the refuge is to protect and enhance wildlife and its habitat, ensure integrity of the ecological system. Prescribed fire is one of the most widely used and cost-effective management tools to do that.”

Why the job is cool: “I get to travel around country fighting wildland fires, meet a lot of cool people and see a lot of places that most people would pay to see.”

Purveyor of Preservation

LouAnn Speulda-Drews
LouAnn Speulda-Drews is a historian/historical archaeologist based in Reno, Nevada. She works throughout the West and has helped restore cabins at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, top left, and Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge. (Photos: USFWS)

Basics of her job: Help the Fish and Wildlife Service comply with the National Historic Preservation Act. Her daily work is fairly obscure – research, writing reports, evaluating resources and making recommendations. But she also gets to help restore historic buildings.

Why the job is important: “Protecting the tangible remains of the past not only assures compliance with the NHPA, it also contributes to a lasting legacy the public can experience.”

Why the job is cool: “I get to connect people with the past through archaeology and historic restoration projects.”

Private Lands Partner

Laurel Badura
Laurel Badura is a biologist with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. She is based at Rainwater Basin Wetland Management District in Nebraska. (Photo: USFWS)

Basics of her job: Help interested private landowners to restore habitats on farms, ranch lands and open spaces in a 21-county area for migratory waterbirds that pass through central Nebraska during spring and fall migration. 

Why the job is important: “Millions of migrating ducks, geese, shorebirds, whooping cranes and other grassland and water birds stop in this region to rest and refuel on their way to their breeding grounds.”

Why the job is cool: “There’s nothing I love more than completing a wetland restoration and then months, a year or five years later having a landowner call me and tell me about all of the birds he sees using the area that he voluntarily helped restore.”

Michigan Mariner

Dave Bohn
Dave Bohn is captain of the M/V Spencer F. Baird, a vessel affiliated with the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in Michigan. (Photos: USFWS)

Basics of his job: To do everything necessary to stock native fish on any given day. This includes watching the weather and making sure the M/V Baird is ready to go and properly staffed.

Why the job is important: “We stock about four million lake trout annually, with nearly three fourths of them stocked near islands in Michigan Islands National Refuge. The rest are stocked elsewhere in Lakes Michigan and Huron.”

Why the job is cool: “I get to cruise the waters of our pristine Great Lakes while taking an active part in restoring native species to their historic spawning grounds for future generations to enjoy.”

Alaska Hydro Brigade

Wayne Stanislowski
Wayne Stanislowski, left, and Jasper Hardison are hydrologists who work with many of Alaska’s 16 national wildlife refuges. (Photos: USFWS)

Basics of the job: Collect water flow and water quality data to ensure proper water quality and quantity within a refuge for the protection of fish and wildlife habitats.

Why the job is important (Hardison): “It addresses long-term protection of refuge resources.” Details.

Why the job is cool (Stanislowski): “I get to fly to work, wade in rivers teeming with salmon, do field work year-round, work with great people, and I get to do it all in one of the most amazing places on Earth.”

Albuquerque Ambassador

Jennifer Owen-White
Jennifer Owen-White, right, is the first manager of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, which was established in 2012 just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico.
(Photo: Brett Billings/USFWS)

Basics of her job: Help guide the planning, design, development, growth, construction and habitat restoration for a new national wildlife refuge.

Why the job is important: “Because places like Valle de Oro connect more Americans to conservation and the important work of the Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Why the job is cool: “I get to work with community members and partner organizations to start a new national wildlife refuge from the ground up and make something that serves our neighbors, our wildlife and the Refuge System as a whole.”  

Check out Owen-White’s 2015 TED Talk, “Why I gave up on becoming a doctor to play in the dirt.

cumulative efforts of employees working
(Photo: USFWS)

Together, the cumulative efforts of employees working on the ground, in the air and in water conserve the nation’s 566 refuges for all Americans to enjoy. To learn more about joining us, see this careers page, follow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Jobs page on Facebook or follow @USFWSJobs on Twitter.


Compiled by Bill_O' , February 15, 2017