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A woman holding an award flanked on both sides by leadership from the region and the migratory birds program
Information icon Karen Frizzell receives her 40-year plaque. Left to Right: John Stanton, Mike Oetker, Karen Frizzell, Catherine Rideout, and Dean Demarest. Photo by Phil Kloer, FWS.

Karen Frizzell reflects on 40 years of federal service

Karen Frizzell, administrative support assistant for two Migratory Bird Field Offices, celebrates 40 years of federal service this year. Thirty-one of those 40 years have been with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Karen serves the North Carolina Migratory Bird Office located in Columbia, North Carolina, and the East Gulf Coastal Plain Joint Venture Office in Atlanta, Georgia, and Daphne, Alabama.

Karen, who lives in Auburn, Alabama, and attended Auburn University, calls her career experiences “AUsome,” filled with many happy memories.

A grayish blue bird with a long curvy neck extends from the vegetation on the bank of a stream.
Karen Frizzel showing off her plaque commemorating 40 years of public service. Photo by Phil Kloer, USFWS.

“Karen’s work ethic, wonderful sense of humor, and kindness are appreciated by all of us who are lucky enough to call her a colleague and friend,” says Catherine Rideout, East Gulf Coastal Plain Joint Venture coordinator.

“I love my job and truly enjoy interacting and working with everyone I have had the chance to call, e-mail or work with over these years,” Karen says.

Karen was born on a U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She remembers including her birth certificate, along with her other paperwork, when she applied with the Service to prove she was a U.S. citizen.

She began her federal career in 1978 as a personnel clerk in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and joined the Service in 1987. That first job was working as a secretary fin the Wildlife Habitat Management Division on the Auburn University Campus. It wasn’t long before Karen was promoted to an Administrative Support Assistant with the Migratory Bird Division. She has worked with Migratory Birds in various positions ever since.

She recalls many highlights in her career with Migratory Birds.

Whooping cranes

Karen set up the Service whooping crane presentation and display at Auburn University’s Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve. The exhibit includes Service and Backyard Wildlife Series hand-outs. For a couple of years, when whooping crane chicks followed ultralights on their winter migration, Karen distributed information about the project by giving children copies of Operation Migration’s Whooping Crane Activity Book when they visited the exhibit. For several years, Karen also helped provide information to the media and educational groups about the former whooping crane migration project as it passed through Alabama.


Karen raised a wood duck from Choctaw National Wildlife Refuge near Coffeeville, Alabama, and named him Choctaw. She took him to the office with her, where he had his own crate and small bathtub to stay in while she worked. Karen took Choctaw to meet groups of children who enjoyed gently touching him and talking to him.


Karen also helped raise an Eastern indigo Snake and had the chance to take him to a presentation at the Montgomery Zoo one year. He rode in his aquarium in the back seat of her car. Everyone at the presentation was in awe of his size and good temperament – Karen says he let people handle him, and he showed no aggression toward anybody.


Karen looks forward to attending NCTC trainings and Service or Migratory Bird Division meetings with the roject leaders and administrative personnel. “There are so many amazing individuals in the Agency and so much to learn from their experiences and knowledge,’ Karen says.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes Karen has seen in her career was the Service’s financial system, which was converted to the Financial Business and Management System (FBMS). “We received guidance, instructor-led training, online training, reference sheets and webinars that assisted us in preparing for our new roles,” Karen says. “I work in FBMS several times a week, and I appreciate every function it offers.”

What are Karen’s plans for the future? She plans to continue working for Migratory Birds and making more memories.

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