National Wildlife Refuge System
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Gabe and the Orange Machine
Gabriel Harper, a 2009 CIP intern, uses a water pump to control water levels in the impoundments at Back Bay Refuge for the benefit of migrating shorebirds.
Credit: Gabriel Harper, USFWS

Natural Resource Managers for Future

Growing up in urban Atlanta, Gabriel Harper, 23, had an interest in wildlife but little opportunity to indulge it. Until, that is, the Morehouse College senior was recruited last summer as a paid student intern in a diversity internship program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, working at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. Now he’s seeking a career with the Service, with the strong backing of his refuge manager.

If he and his cohorts succeed, that will also mark a success for the Conservation Intern Program (CIP), conceived to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the natural resources ranks.

National recruiting for summer 2010 CIP internships throughout the Northeast Region is expected to begin again in December. Just as last year, there will be 30 slots to fill.

Harper, who graduated in May with a degree in psychology, calls his 12-week internship "a great experience in opening my eyes to different methods of conservation and wildlife management." 

CIP, now entering its third year, is a joint program of the Service's Northeast Regional Office and the Student Conservation Association (, a nonprofit organization that matches high school and college students with conservation service opportunities. This partnership is targeted toward freshman and sophomore students. Students selected for refuge internships on the basis of teacher and mentor recommendations receive a one-week orientation. For the next 11 weeks they get a taste of activities from biological monitoring and habitat restoration to refuge maintenance and recreational public-use programs. They live in refuge housing and are mentored by refuge staff.

"We look at this as a feeder group for future leaders of the Service," says Joe McCauley, manager of the Eastern Virginia Rivers National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act has permitted more openings in other refuge internship programs. These include Youth Conservation Corps positions, for students age 15-18, and the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) and the Student Career Experience Program, both for students age 16 and up. Postings for some of these positions can be found at or

For more information:

Rita Corliss, Assistant Director, Conservation Internships, Student Conservation Association,, or 603-543-1700 ext. 398.
Lamar B. Gore, Assistant Refuge Supervisor, Northeast Regional Office, USFWS, or 413-253-8542.

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