Tag Archives: Philly

Community outreach meets program development at John Heinz Refuge

The Service is joining Hispanic Access Foundation in celebrating Latino Conservation Week from July 16-24 as a demonstration of Latino commitment to conservation and the permanent protection of our land, water, and air. Events across the nation, including those planned by our very own interns, will bring members of the Latino community together by participating in outdoor recreation, environmental education, and conservation service projects. Throughout the week, we will share posts featuring our Hispanic Access Foundation interns and the events they’ve put together.

Without further ado:

This is Amber Betances, coming at you live from John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge!

This summer, the Hispanic Access Foundation Amber Betances - FWS photohas granted me the opportunity to work in Philadelphia at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. I was intrigued by the concept of community outreach, especially since I study landscape architecture, and the importance of including outreach in the design process. Over the years at Rutgers University, I learned about the disconnect between communities of color and green spaces/nature. Throughout the course of the internship, I’ve met with many community leaders and community partner organizations all working toward the same goal — to improve and advance these neighborhoods.

After getting to know the community leaders, I began to fully understand the severity of the conflicts a lot of these communities are facing. One of the major components in community outreach is building trust and being considerate and understanding of the obstacles these neighborhoods face. The refuge is currently in the process of partnering with local organizations to invest in the community and create green spaces tailored to community needs. Ultimately, the goal is to create programming that emphasizes the importance of conservation and helps community members develop a sense of ownership for green spaces.

pollinator garden

Pollinator garden at Independence Hall in Philadelphia

I will be focusing on the development of program ideas that are of interest to the community. Sitting in on community meetings has helped me understand local needs, but my goal is to continue trying to reach a larger audience. Each conversation with a member of the Philadelphia community is valuable — even if it only serves to help the public understand what happens on a national wildlife refuge, like at John Heinz. Including the community in the design and implementation of programming gives us a better understanding of how people in different communities may feel about nature and the outdoors, and helps us address their needs and wants.

SW community gardens

Southwest community garden on Cecil Street

red belly turtle

I never expected to end up at a national wildlife refuge as a landscape architect major, studying the social interactions between place and space. This internship ties in closely to what I want to do when I graduate. I want to be able to work for cities with consideration for people in the community. As a future landscape architect, I plan on working toward the advancement of communities of color by letting the communities lead the way and integrating their needs in my designs.


First up next week: Nia Edwards gives us the run-down on summer happenings at Masonville Cove

Nature is the best medicine


That’s us mid-trail! Jeannette is on the left, that’s me in middle and Mariana on the right.

Even having an office at a national wildlife refuge, you can sometimes forget how amazing the places, wildlife and people that you’re working for are, even when they’re right outside the door. I’m fairly new to Philly and I’ve been saying forever that I’m going to go out and explore John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum more, and this month, thanks to a run challenge, I’ve been doing it. Yesterday was the perfect day- a busy day at the office coupled with a crisp spring breeze and partly cloudy sky. After work, I grabbed Jeannette Guess, the president of the Friends of Heinz Refuge and Mariana Bergerson, the deputy refuge manager, and we hit the trail!

Besides dropping some serious knowledge on me about the history of the refuge, I learned that these two ladies are the most amazing nature photographers. Either that, or I need a new phone! Every few hundred feet, we would comment on how beautiful the refuge was and how insane it was that we were both a few hundred yards from an international airport and a bald eagle’s nest. Keep reading to check out an awesome audio clip Jeanntte took of spring peepers!


One of my favorites of Jeannette’s great photos!

On our five mile trip, we didn’t see much wildlife so late in the afternoon, but we caught some beautiful sunset shots and saw a bunch of visitors going for a walk, running, biking, birdwatching and taking photos. They had the same idea we did.

I might be late to the party, but I had to share this experience from yesterday. The time out on the refuge was better than any time on my sofa. It shows just how important it is to conserve these urban green spaces.

From Jeannette…


What do you do when you’ve had a grueling week filled with deadlines, lots of meetings and extended workdays? You grab two employees after work and hit the trails. What an amazing five mile journey with Mariana and Tylar. We visited the new boardwalk, took some amazing photos and enjoyed every step as we made our way through this beautiful refuge.  I’m looking forward to the next Heinz Healthy Treks journey. We came up with a name to keep these walks going and maybe start them as a weekly event in the community! Below is one of my favorite photos.


Sunset over the impoundment.

And here is an audio clip of spring peepers. We were about 200 feet from a train station.

From Mariana…


John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tincum has been an important place in the southwest Philadelphia community for many years. I’ve been lucky enough to call this place home/work (the two can’t really be separated!) for the last six years. Every time that I get the opportunity to explore the refuge, it is amazing that every bend in the trail offers a new and memorable experience. Whether it is a beautiful sunset as I shared last night with coworkers and friends, an encounter with enthusiastic visitors seeing the bald eagle nest for the first time, or finding a sense of solitude in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city, the refuge provides a sense of stability in an ever changing world.


So artistic.

It’s safe to say we all love John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. I’m so glad our work is to conserve this special place, and introduce more people to it’s pure awesomeness!

Kicking off our 2015 diversity youth hiring program in Philly!

Each year since 2008, we’ve partnered with The Student Conservation Association to introduce culturally and ethnically diverse youth to conservation careers. The program, called the Career Discovery Internship Program, or CDIP, includes a weeklong orientation at one of our wildlife refuges or field offices before the students head off to various locations throughout the country, like Alaska and Maine. But some are staying right here in Philly! During the week, the students learn about the requirements for federal conservation careers, issues and challenges facing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and how we work with partners to serve the public through wildlife conservation. The students are also paired with a Service mentor to guide them through the summer. This year, we’re having orientation at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum in Philadelphia and it’s been a great week!


The whole 2015 crew along with our partners from LL Bean. This is right after a kayak trip they led for us on the Tinicum freshwater tidal marsh.


Almost ready to launch!


And on they went.


Brendalee, the refuge biologist, talking to the students about her work at the refuge. The students met with refuge staff to learn about what they do to keep the refuge functioning. In addition to biology, they met with our maintenance and law enforcement staff, our visitor services and environmental education staff and learned the aspects of overall refuge management.


After learning about what happens on a refuge, the students work on challenge projects throughout the week. They help the refuge solve real issues and provide some innovative ideas on topics such as marsh management, community outreach and refuge maintenance among other things.

Check out more awesome pics over at The Student Conservation Association’s website!