By Hazel Rodriguez, public affairs specialist
We'd like to share the insider's scoop about the people who carry out the important work of protecting and conserving fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats along the central and southern California coast. Meet our new public affairs specialist Olivia Beitelspacher!
Hazel Rodriguez: Welcome to the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office Olivia! What role do you play within the agency?
Olivia Beitelspacher: I am a public affairs specialist, so it my job to share stories and communicate with different audiences about the amazing work being done at the Ventura FWO to protect endangered species. I also get to perform outreach and engage with local communities.
HR: Not a bad gig you got! Tell me about where you went to school and what you studied.
OB: I went to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas where I got a B.A. in Film and Environmental Studies.
HR: What led you to a career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?
OB: I had just switched my major from Creative Computation to Environmental Studies and was looking for an internship with a federal land management agency. I applied for an internship with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and got to spend a summer as an interpretive ranger at Grand Teton National Park.
The following summer I applied to another SCA internship and was fortunate enough to get to participate in the Directorate Resource Fellowship Program (DFP), which was actually my introduction to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Through the DFP I had the opportunity to spend a summer in Anchorage, AK making outreach and educational materials about invasive species. It was such an incredible experience! I love the Service’s mission and all of the people I met during my DFP, and I admire their passion and dedication to their work. It made me realize that USFWS is the agency that I wanted to work for.HR: That is great to hear Olivia! Do you have any conservation heroes or mentors?
OB: There are so many amazing conservation heroes but the one who comes to mind first is Liz Putnam, the founder of the Student Conservation Association (SCA). I had the honor of meeting her during a volunteer service trip at Grand Canyon National Park and hearing her story was incredibly inspiring.
In 1953 at age 20, while still attending Vassar College, Liz created the SCA enlisting student volunteers to assist with the upkeep of U.S. national parks and public spaces. Because of her, I and so many other students were given opportunities to experience public lands and conservation in ways that we might’ve not had otherwise.
HR: That is so cool that you had the opportunity to meet her! We have a partnership with SCA to provide many fellowship and internship opportunities. Students can gain some serious skills, and experience life on different landscapes. Totally worth checking out!
OB: I second that! The SCA is a great organization and helped me find my passion and ultimately my career in conservation. 10/10 would recommend.
HR: Is there a particular project from your career or schooling that makes you really proud?
OB: When I was a senior in college I helped organize a Student Service Day for a local environmental non-profit, and it was such a cool experience. It took several months of planning and preparation, but it was so rewarding to see it come to fruition at the end. I was really proud to take part in the creation of an event that gave students the ability to learn more about environmentalism in their community, while also participating in a clean-up around a local lake.
HR: Now for the fun stuff. How do you spend your free time?
OB: I enjoy watching movies, reading, playing with my dogs, and baking! I’ve gotten way more into baking recently and it’s such a fun way to spend a day. I also really enjoy going to new restaurants and coffee shops! I actually have a running list of coffee shops I’ve visited and ones I still need to go to in my area. I update it every time I try a new one so that I can remember which ones I like the most.
HR: Do you have a hidden talent? If so, what is it?
OB: It’s not so hidden anymore, but I’m a pretty decent baker! I recently did a couple of what I call “Epic Bakes” where I spent a few straight days doing nothing but baking different flavors of the same dessert (or different desserts with the same flavor) and then delivered them to all of my friends. So far my Epic Bakes have included cheesecakes, scones, macarons, and blueberry themed desserts. When I have the time, maybe I’ll do bread or pie next!
HR: Wow Olivia that sounds delicious, hope to try one of your “Epic Bakes” one day!