Tag Archives: award

Award Winning Work with Volunteers

Wildlife Biology and engaging the community haven’t always gone hand in hand in the past, but this is changing.

Linda Ziemba, lead biologist at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, is linking the two by promoting stewardship. She is saving critters while also building up the scientific interest of the community, therefore, bridging the gap between people and their outdoor environments. For 11 years now, Linda has been working with volunteers, partners, and students to improve the quality of natural ecosystems and educate about the importance of a healthy environment.

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Students from Hobart and William Smith Colleges learn about the impacts of invasive plants on native ecosystems, while pulling bags of Japanese stiltgrass. Students worked hand in hand with volunteers, Montezuma NWR biologist Linda Ziemba, and other refuge staff. What a team! Credit: Ray Hunt

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service would not be able to do all the great conservation work without volunteers. According to the article Budget and Staffing Trends in the Northeast Region,  for every hour that a volunteer provides to a refuge, it is valued at $22.50 to the refuge system. Volunteers at the Montezuma NWR have had the opportunity to become more involved in citizen science and  a part of the many programs Montezuma NWR has to offer. Volunteers are helping out at Montezuma NWR more than ever before, partly thanks to Linda’s welcoming presence, which has helped to open up insightful discussions between the biologist and curious participants.

Linda was a key player in the formation of MARSH (Montezuma Alliance for the Restoration of Species and Habitats) – a program, from April to October, entirely devoted to volunteers helping the wildlife habitat of Montezuma’s wetlands. With a list of different involvement opportunities (photographer, social media strategist,  winter raptor surveyor), there is certainly a role for everyone to get in on. No experience necessary!

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Biologist and event goer, Ethan Marsh, band together to release a male mallard at a duck banding event. Credit: David Marsh

Through this program, which got its start in 2009,  Linda discusses with folks why it’s important that this work is being done.  Recently, college students and recent graduates with tech-savvy skills and folks with a strong background in plant ID were paired together to build off one another’s skill sets using an app for mapping invasive species. People in MARSH are able to share their own individual focuses of expertise during the work plans, and also gain knowledge from different backgrounds, scientific or not. Friends groups have chimed in on this collaborative effort and usually provide lunch for volunteers after. Linda emphasizes it really is a group effort, but it is also her strong ability to bring people together that serves as a forefront.

Montezuma NWR ,with the help of Linda organizing a number of people, have together banded 50% of New York State’s (NYS) black ducks, so many that over winter there is high return of the ones already banded. Before hunting season, 25% of NYS’s Mallard ducks, the refuge’s target species, are banded regularly.  On behalf of the people’s diligent work on the refuge, the state of New York is able to meet their quota. Wow!!

montezuma volunteers and Linda Ziemba

In January of 2017, there was a fun Friday activity for volunteers. This eager group went on a observation walk to locate the nation’s familiar and emblematic bird: the  Bald Eagle. A whopping 44 eagles and 5 nests were spotted by the participants!

Linda has continued to foster a relationship with local colleges SUNY ESF college at Syracuse, Finger Lakes Community College, Chiropractic College, as well as Suny Brockport, where students make the trek from an hour away. She has helped to get students majoring in science-related majors involved in hands on field work.  This is a great way for students to gain relevant experience, and helps to guide them into work that they may want to get into in the future, but if not, as Linda says it’s a platform to the idea of “giving back to the community and protecting the land.”

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Freshman college students learn the ropes about habitat restoration and collaborate together to help Montezuma NWR volunteer, Gretchen Schauss, and biologist, Linda Ziemba, collect native plant seeds.  Photo Credit: L. Colunga

Linda finds her job especially rewarding when she is able to change the mind of a former critic. Through negotiation and interpersonal dialogue, Linda and her team help to make others aware of the significance of their work to wildlife.  It  can take personal connections and the building blocks of a partnership for someone to feel as passionate about an issue too. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is here for the wildlife, but they are also here for the people. Because of her outstanding efforts in the field and with volunteers, the Service has announced Linda Ziemba as the 2016 “Biologist of the Year.”

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In Linda’s spare time, she enjoys hiking the Finger Lakes Trail of New York with her family. Photo Credit: Phil Bonn

Congrats Linda, and a pat on the back to all the hard working volunteers, partners, and biologists out there protecting the wildlife. Cheers to teaching future generations the importance of a sustainable relationship between people and the Earth!

 

 

NJ biologist recognized for efforts to save endangered wildlife

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Biologist Wendy Walsh (holding a red knot here) of our New Jersey Field Office is receiving the Women and Wildlife Leadership Award from one of our partner organizations. She was recognized by our director earlier this year as an endangered species recovery champion too! Photo courtesy of Wendy.

One of our very own biologists, Wendy Walsh, will be among the three individuals honored tonight by the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey at the 11th annual Women & Wildlife Awards.

The awards recognize the recipients’ achievements, the advances they have made for women in their professions, their efforts to increase awareness of rare species and the habitats they depend on, and their contributions to New Jersey’s wildlife.

Mara Cige of CWF writes: As a senior fish and wildlife biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2016 Women & Wildlife Leadership Award Winner Wendy Walsh has proven herself invaluable in the endangered species field for her work with wildlife such as the piping plover, swamp pink, and seabeach amaranth.

Her most notable work is with the red knot. Ms. Walsh took the species lead in the middle of the federal listing process. Her tireless efforts coordinating, analyzing and interpreting data, particularly detailing the effects of changing climate on these long-distance migrant shorebirds has made her work widely acclaimed as the final rule.

From biology to policy, she has an uncanny ability to grasp important information and translate it for any species she finds herself working with. She has created partnerships with additional organizations to accelerate conservation efforts. In such collaborations, Ms. Walsh’s open-mindedness to others’ expertise makes for effective planning and implementation of the vision she has to one day recover all threatened and endangered species.

By acknowledging these special individuals, we hope to encourage more young women to strive to make a positive impact on species and habitat protection, especially through the biological sciences.

Check out this Q&A between Mara and Wendy.

What is your favorite thing about your job?
“I love that I’m constantly learning something new. Over the years, I’ve had the chance to learn about and observe so many species, and I’ve had the chance to really get to know a few in particular — piping plovers, seabeach amaranth, bog turtles, swamp pink, and red knots. And I’ve had the opportunity to work on such a wide range of issues — utility lines, transportation, mitigation, stormwater, beach nourishment, bird collision, volunteer programs, restoration, fishery management, listing, and most recently aquaculture. I’m very fortunate to have a job where there is always a new learning opportunity on the horizon.”

Do you have a New Jersey wildlife species that you like best? Why?
“From a non-scientific point of view, I love watching dragonflies and wading birds with my kids, and taking the family to count and tag horseshoe crabs. But professionally, I’m partial to the beach species I’ve worked on — piping plovers, red knots, seabeach amaranth. I enjoy the beach ecosystem, and I feel a responsibility to these beach-dependent species that face so many challenges along New Jersey’s human-dominated coast.”

What interests you the most about New Jersey’s wildlife?
“I’m fascinated at the contrast between New Jersey’s really remarkable habitats and ecosystems in the context of our equally remarkable human population density. Generations of pioneering conservationists from past decades have allowed our State’s wildlife to persist even with so many people. I view our generation — and my kids’ — as stewards of that conservation legacy.”

What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t working?
“I love spending time with my family, such as taking trips with my husband, Mac, and two daughters, as well as time with extended family — Mom, brothers, cousins. I enjoy working with my kids’ Girls Scout troops and helping at their schools.”

Join us in congratulating Wendy!

Biologist Jess Jones of our Virginia field office just received the Rachel Carson Award for Scientific Excellence. Jess is a national leader in freshwater mussel conservation. Credit: USFWS

Meet a leading scientist in freshwater mussel conservation

Biologist Jess Jones of our Virginia field office just received the Rachel Carson Award for Scientific Excellence. Jess is a national leader in freshwater mussel conservation. Credit: USFWS

Biologist Jess Jones of our Virginia field office just received the 2013 Rachel Carson Award for Scientific Excellence. Jess is a national leader in freshwater mussel conservation. Credit: USFWS

You’ve heard us say this many times…Freshwater mussels are not rocks. They’re way more than just shells covering river bottoms. Mussel populations tell us if the river is healthy, meaning it is a good resource for drinking water, for fishing, and for waterfowl and other species.

Now, here’s something even more incredible than mussels’ crazy names (like Appalachian monkeyface pearlymussel) or their amazing skills for tricking fish. There are more types of freshwater mussels in Virginia and Tennessee’s Powell River than in all of Europe. Their existence there has been threatened many times–including by two large oil spills that caused the loss of much habitat.

This is where Jess Jones steps in. Jess is a national leader in freshwater mussel conservation and restoration. Recipient of the 2013 Rachel Carson Award for Scientific Excellence, Jess works with the latest technology to breed and raise juvenile mussels at Virginia Tech’s Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Center for release in the Clinch and Powell rivers. He’s based out of our U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in eastern Virginia.

How incredible is his work?

  • After one of Virginia’s most catastrophic spills destroyed one of the last remaining populations of the endangered tan riffleshell, Jess worked with other agencies to release more than 26,000 mussel larvae (glochidia) and juvenile mussels to augment the 100 adult tan riffleshells that remained.
  • The laboratory Jess oversees has successfully reared thousands of juvenile endangered oyster mussels to breeding age (4 years) and has recently documented that these mussels are reproducing in captivity.
  • Jess and his partners have released hundreds of thousands of hatchery-reared mussels to restore one of the nation’s most biologically diverse ecosystems. In 2010, his team released 2,500 endangered oyster mussels.
  • Through his novel monitoring methodologies, Jess has confirmed that survival and growth rates for propagated and released mussels at multiple sites are very similar to natural rates in the sections of the same rivers not affected by the spills.

Breeding mussels and supporting populations that will survive into the future are no simple tasks. The freshwater mussel life cycle is one of the most complex in the animal world (check out our video on it). They face incredible challenges for survival, as the quality of their stream and river homes is affected by land use, industries, climate change and invasive species.

We couldn’t be more appreciative of Jess’ scientific expertise and dedication for conserving and restoring the incredible diversity of Virginia’s waters — and contributing to the health and well-being of wildlife and people. Congratulations, Jess!

Jess took his passion for mussel conservation abroad to China — check out his blog from the trip!