Biologist devotes 20 years to protecting Virginia’s wildlife
We continue our series on women in conservation for Women’s History Month. Today we hear from Kim Smith, biologist at our Virginia Field Office in Gloucester, Va.
Kim Smith spent a year learning to identify thousands of ducks while surveying for wildlife in the North Dakota potholes. Then she headed east to help protect the wildlife of Virginia. Twenty years later, she’s still devoting her time to safeguarding the state’s wildlife and landscape – especially for the endangered Roanoke logperch and endangered James spinymussel.
Q. How does your work impact wildlife and conservation, and what is most rewarding about your work to you?
A. My work involves reviewing projects and providing recommendations to federal and state agencies to protect fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats, including endangered species for development projects. I am also responsible for implementing recovery actions for several endangered species.
The Service plays an important role by providing agencies and individuals with the necessary scientific information and recommendations so that the conservation of these resources is considered in the review of development projects.
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I feel rewarded when we restore and improve the water quality of a stream where an endangered fish or mussel lives. I feel rewarded when we provide the necessary funding to discover important life history information about a species so that we can use that research to provide science-based recommendations. I feel rewarded when we get kids out into a stream during an outreach event and they are excited to touch, feel, and see the critters that they find. The most rewarding part of my job is that the learning is never-ending, and the job remains challenging.
Q. Do you have a female role model or a woman that you admire or look up to?
A. Mollie Beattie, the first woman director of the Service, was a role model for me. She was the director when I got my first job with the Service, and she was an inspiring leader. I have been lucky to work side by side with many impressive and dedicated women over the years, not only within the Service, but in my interactions with other agencies and partners.
Q. How did you join the Service, and what do you see yourself doing 20 years from now? Will conservation still play a role in your life?
A. I had a great job working as a seasonal field biologist in North Dakota at the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center. At that time the science center was a part of the Fish and Wildlife Service. I learned how to identify thousands of ducks while doing flora and fauna surveys in the potholes.
After surviving several cold winters there, I moved to a warmer part of the country and closer to my family where I eventually earned the coveted office with the window.
Of course now I covet the field job. Twenty years from now I will be retired, and I hope to be exploring the forests, mountains, rivers, and beaches that I have yet to visit with my husband.
Conservation will always play a major role in my life, and I will continue to advocate for natural resource protection.
Q. The theme for this year’s Women’s History Month is “Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination”; how might this theme play into your work?
A. The development projects that we review are sometimes very complex and involve species that we have limited information on. Having a great imagination and a creative mind is a valuable asset in this job.
This job is all about resolving issues through creative solutions.