Meet Ann Bliss, our newest office assistant! Ann discusses how an RV road trip led her to a career in conservation and how volunteering at a wildlife rescue inspired her to make her own pollinator garden. Learn more about Ann in the latest Faces of the Fish and Wildlife Service interview!
Olivia Beitelspacher: Welcome to the Service, Ann! What role do you play within the agency?
Ann Bliss: I am the office assistant for the South Coast Division of the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office
OB: What led you to a career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?
AB: In 2019 my partner and I were travelling in our RV at South Padre Island in Texas. We were motorcycling, saw Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, visited, then asked if we could become volunteers. I had the best time learning the new flora and fauna and working at the visitor center and trails! I had told one of my ranger friends how I wished I could do this as my job, and they told me I could! I thought I might be too old or not have the right education. They helped by going through my resume and pointing out how my skills were readily transferable. I gratefully got a seasonal job with the National Park Service and while I loved it, I knew conservation has always been deep in my heart and in practice in my community. The opportunity with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service came and all I can say is, “Thank you!”
OB: That’s an amazing story Ann! We’re so glad that your journey led you to our office! Can you tell us where you went to school and what you studied?
AB: I am a graduate of Long Island University, Post Campus in New York with a master’s degree in communication sciences and disorders (speech pathology and audiology).
OB: Who is your conservation hero or mentor, and why?
AB: As I pondered this, I realized my heroes were all women scientists that were not really promoted as scientists when I was growing up. Naturalist Joy Adamson was my first and foremost hero through the movie Born Free. My other heroes were researchers, primatologists, and conservationists like Diane Fossey and Jane Goodall. They were the ones that made nature personal, showed cause and effect and and promoted a personal responsibility to protect. And kudos go to my first husband who had naturalist potential so that shaped how I lived my life during and after our marriage through awareness. Kudos also go to my partner who is supporting my dream to change careers.
OB: Those are definitely women to look up to! So, tell us, what is a particular project from your career or schooling that makes you really proud?
AB: It’s more on a personal note than public. My volunteering began in 2010 with an all-volunteer wildlife rescue, rehab and release group on Long Island, New York. Again, I was having the best time working with STAR Foundation (SaveTheAnimalsRescue) and the animals, being a representative out in the community, and educating the public about the animal life on Long Island. That led me to rebuild my yard using native plants and planting for pollinators and wildlife; a little suburban “re-wilding.” It was Christmas every morning with native visitors, especially butterflies. We had over 50 black swallowtail butterflies pupate and enclose in my yard one summer. The next year, we were able to provide habitat for over 20 monarchs and pipevine swallowtails that made my yard their nursery. And we kept going. What an awesome gift!
OB: Your garden sounds wonderful! What an excellent example of how we can all do our part to help pollinators! Besides gardening, how do you spend your free time?
AB: On the motorcycle exploring with my partner or hanging in nature with my standard poodle Gracie and African grey parrot Sam.
OB: Sounds like an adventure! Lastly, do you have a hidden talent? If so, what is it?
AB: Generally, I can get a smile from almost anyone, whether they want to or not 😉
OB: Learning more about you definitely made me smile! Thank you, Ann!