By Olivia Beitelspacher, public affairs specialist
Meet one of our wildlife biologists Amy Hughes! Amy discusses her conservation heroes and her path towards working with the Service. Learn more about Amy in the latest Faces of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service interview.
Olivia Beitelspacher: Welcome to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Amy! Can you tell us about your role with the agency?
Amy Hughes: : My role is to help ensure that other federal agencies and private land owners comply with the Endangered Species Act when conducting projects (e.g., land developments) that will impact listed species. I review and prepare related documents from an ecological perspective and contribute to the recovery of listed species.
OB: That’s great! What led you to a career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?
AH: I have always known I wanted to do something like this. My nursery theme was Noah’s Ark, as a child I preferred watching Jane Goodall and Steve Irwin on TV rather than cartoons, and even my fourth grade yearbook stated my ambitions to one day become a field zoologist in Africa (not quite, but pretty close!). I volunteered for a wildlife refuge in high school, earned a couple of wildlife conservation-related degrees, and now I get to be part of this incredible agency and contribute to tangible conservation work. As a suburbanite from Orlando, FL, I am particularly interested in landscape-level effects of human development on wildlife and natural resources.
OB: Wow, it’s so exciting that you were able to achieve something that you’ve been dreaming about your whole life! Congratulations. Now tell us, where did you go to school and what did you study?
AH: I got my bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from the University of Florida (UF ‘19) and my master’s degree in Biology with emphases in ecology and marine science at the College of William and Mary (W & M ‘21).
OB: Do you have any conservation heroes?
AH: Steve Irwin has always been my conservation hero. He had such a pure, yet fiery passion for wildlife conservation, and he made sure the world knew it. I strive to one day become as unabashedly yet charismatically vocal as he was about conservation. Seeing his family continue his legacy makes my heart happy.
OB: Steve Irwin was truly a great man and advocate for wildlife conservation! It is so great that he helped inspire your passion. Is there a particular project from your career or schooling that makes you really proud?
AH: I am grateful and pretty proud that I finished my master’s degree within my DFP direct-hire period. To be completely transparent, my master’s thesis, which was already centered on a butterfly species that apparently does NOT survive well in captivity or in the wild, completely flopped amid the pandemic. I had to totally restructure my degree, experienced a career epiphany during 2020’s summer quarantine, and got hired on with FWS at a fantastic office. What a time! I am so happy to be here.
OB: Sounds like a crazy ride, but I’m glad you landed on your feet! So Amy, how do you spend your free time?
AH: In my free time, I like to hike with my spouse and our two rescue dogs, travel to new places, learn new things (languages, skills, crafts, etc.), photograph nature (especially beetles, slugs, fungi, etc. underrated organisms), and live a plant-based/ethical lifestyle. Yes, I’m vegan; no, I will not shame you for loving bacon – I used to, too. Montane landscapes are my favorite to explore, so moving to a place with mountains, coastline, and so much in between is super exciting for me!
OB: Sounds like you have a lot of really cool activities to keep you busy! Okay Amy, last question - Do you have a hidden talent? If so, what is it?
AH: I really enjoy playing, singing, and writing music, but I have a terrible fear of performing and being in the spotlight in general. Maybe one day that will change!
OB: Those are incredible talents! I totally understand having stage fright, but if you ever feel like you’d be able to perform, I’d love to listen. Thanks Amy!