Career Story: Wildlife Biologist At A National Wildlife Refuge

Wildlife Biologist At A National Wildlife Refuge

Job Title: Wildlife Biologist

Type of Company: I am a wildlife biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service where our mission is "Wildlife First." On the refuge where I work our mission is to manage habitat and monitor wildlife populations.

Education: BS, Wildlife Biology, Frostburg State University (Frostburg, MD) •• MS, Wildlife Biology, North Carolina State University

Previous Experience: I worked in aquaculture raising striped bass and stocking the Patuxent River and Chesapeake Bay for four summers during my undergraduate years. I surveyed, monitored and banded northern spotted owls and collected habitat data in northern California and southern Oregon. I conducted timber inventories in Douglas fir old-growth forests in northern California. I was a teaching assistant and taught biology labs at NCSU during graduate school. I was a wildlife biologist at the Bureau of Land Management for three years and have now been a wildlife biologist for the Fish and Wildlife Service for the past 15 years.

Job Tasks: I am responsible for the biology program on at a national wildlife refuge near Columbia, North Carolina. My job involves monitoring and managing wildlife populations and their habitats. One important technique we use to learn more about the life history of migratory bird species is leg banding. Throughout the year, I band birds of various species including tundra swans and wood ducks. The birds are captured with rocket nets and US Fish and Wildlife Service leg bands are attached above each bird's foot. Data we collect includes the sex, age, and condition of every bird that we band, but the banding tells us more ultimately: the locations of breeding grounds, wintering grounds, migration routes, how long the birds live and productivity data (how many young are being produced). Basically the more we know about a species' life history, the more effective we can be in helping them survive. This is becoming increasingly important as habitat is lost or degraded due to human encroachment.

Another of my responsibilities is environmental education. It is essential for the public to learn and appreciate the importance of wildlife conservation and the link between thriving wildlife populations and human health. Educating teachers is an important means of accomplishing this task because they inspire and educate the youth and future leaders.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is working towards the mission of wildlife conservation and healthy, functioning ecosystems. Another highlight of my job is partnering with the staff at the state Museum of Natural Sciences. We have been conducting a teachers' workshop during January for over 10 years. Working with the teachers and providing them with a greater appreciation of the natural world is so important and we feel confident that they will return to their classrooms and instill this knowledge in the children they teach.

The worst part of my job is lack of funding and staff to get the work done.

Job Tips: Anyone interested in pursuing a career in wildlife biology should take as many science and math courses as possible during high school and then major in wildlife biology or another natural resources field in college. Try to get as much field experience as you can through internships and volunteer work at refuges, natural science museums and other wildlife-oriented organizations. As you move up the ladder during your career, always remember why you went into the field of wildlife conservation and always conduct yourself at the highest level of integrity.

Additional Thoughts: Some of the most important personal qualities for success in a career in wildlife biology are integrity, dedication, solid science background, good people skills and hard work. With the current and future environmental challenges, including climate change, it is imperative that conservation professionals educate the public and explain in plain English the science that supports wildlife conservation and healthy functioning ecosystems. It is also essential to conduct "good science" with the highest level of integrity that has gone through peer reviews to ensure credibility.

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