Tag Archives: refuge manager

Introducing Nancy Finley, Refuge Manager at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

This summer, Nancy Finley joined the fabulous team at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia as the new Refuge Manager. Nancy is joining the Service in the northeast from the National Park Service in Nebraska. To get to know Nancy a bit better, we’ve asked her a few questions: here’s what she had to say!

1. How did you become interested in pursuing a career in environmental conservation?

I was always the kid that was outside and mucking around with things. I would always be bringing home some animal I found, alive or dead, creating some squeamish moments for my poor Mom. We lived on the coast and I was constantly in the water.

In high school, a biology teacher was working on his Ph.D. He was researching why diamondback terrapin populations on this barrier beach were declining, and because he was still teaching and needed assistance in the field, he created field internship opportunities. I jumped at the internship and started going out to the beach with him every day after school, every weekend, and all summer. At 14, I was one of his primary go-to field hands and put thermistors in turtle nests, radio tracked turtles, monitored for nesting, did beach profiles. You name it, I was there. I loved it, and was hooked on conservation ever since. I worked with him through the completion of his doctorate, and years after, we are still in touch and still laugh about some of the old days! I am grateful to him for exposing me to science in a formal way, and I entered college knowing exactly what I wanted to be – and never turned back.

A juvenile diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) is released by Chesapeake Bay Program staff at Ferry Point Park in Kent Narrows, Md., on July 17, 2010. (Photo by Alicia Pimental/Chesapeake Bay Program)

What do you enjoy most about working in the conservation field?

I am a hands-on gal for the most part. That is why I love working in applied sciences, where you can see the results of your decisions and can adjust as need be to make things better. Both National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offer a great opportunity to do a variety of jobs within the job. I was up at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore acting as the superintendent this last fall, and this wicked storm came through with sustained 40 knot winds and gusts over 100 knots. It was an incredible storm to watch, very powerful. It pushed a good bit of Lake Superior into the area that the park headquarters sat on and knocked down a lot of trees. I stayed at the office until about 10 p.m. that night, getting pumps going to remove water that was coming up through the basement of this historic Coast Guard station. Volunteers came in from town and helped us remove trees from the cross country ski trails so that they would be up and running quickly. Staff from all programs just worked together to get the job done with the community, and we helped with issues in town, as well. These moments of pulling together with the staff and the community are just so gratifying. I try to make every day like that in small ways; you don’t need a major event to keep those philosophies close at hand.

How do you think Chincoteague will be different from your previous experiences?

Every place I have been is so different,  and I really enjoy learning new things. I have lived in coastal areas that are important tourist destinations, but I think Chincoteague is unique in that it is in a generally rural area, and then suddenly gets this influx of visitors. I think that is something to consider in balancing visitor enjoyment with the needs of the community and, of course, protection of resources at the refuge. I have a lot to take in and learn.

What kind of experience do you want visitors to have at the refuge?

I would like them to really see the place for what it was intended, a place to experience wildlife, specifically migratory waterfowl, experience the unique coastal habitat, take in the salt air, and relax. I know Chincoteague is known for the beach but there is so much more to see and I would like to see visitors have those other experiences too. But yes, also come to recreate and have fun, that is important too.

What are your favorite outdoor hobbies?

I like to do anything outside. My husband and I fish and boat, although that’s been a challenge in Nebraska! I like to walk a lot with my four year old golden retriever as my sidekick – he is the beautiful one in the family.

Do you have a fun story or memory you would like to share?

I was doing aerial surveys for sea turtles off the coast of Virginia in an old de Havilland Beaver and I was very focused on the line I was surveying (and seeing lots of sharks down there). But all of a sudden I hear the plane start sputtering and coughing and I look over at the pilot and he is holding a knob in his hand. The knob was the switch that switched from one fuel tank to the other, and it broke! Thankfully after the tank switched over, the plane stopped coughing. Pheww!

Introducing New Refuge Manager Keith Ramos

This past summer, Keith Ramos joined the Northern Maine National Wildlife Refuge Complex as its new Refuge Manager. This Refuge Complex includes Moosehorn, Aroostook, and Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuges. To help you get acquainted with him, I asked Keith to answer a few questions about his past and share his hopes for the future of the Refuge Complex. Here is what he had to say…


How did you become interested in pursuing a career in environmental conservation?
I grew up in Puerto Rico and my parents are not outdoors people, but I remember watching the show “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” in Spanish on the Telemundo TV station. It came on Saturday mornings and I loved seeing the wildlife. Growing up we would visit my family in Connecticut and it was always so exciting to see white-tailed deer and go fishing with my uncle. When I started college, I thought I would become a pediatrician but that changed after my freshman year. I went to visit my parents in Swaziland, Southern Africa for the summer, while my dad was stationed there for the Coca-Cola Company. My dad took us to see Kruger National Park and that’s where I learned, after seeing the park rangers, that people could actually get paid to work with wildlife. I returned to UMass that following semester and found out that they had a Wildlife Conservation degree. I changed career paths right away, much to my dad’s dismay, but I’m very grateful to have made that decision and my dad now knows how much I love it.


What other types of work have you done with the US Fish and Wildlife Service?
I have been truly blessed throughout my 17 years with the Service. I have been able to work in four different regions and have seen some incredible places. I have spawned Atlantic salmon in freezing raceways to support Connecticut River restoration and have climbed to the top of the canopy at El Yunque rainforest to survey for Puerto Rican parrots. I got to fly over western Alaska surveying for musk oxen.


There were countless hours spent searching for nesting Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles on the Texas coast.

I have rescued manatees in the Florida springs and tracked ocelots through the south Texas brush.



I have stood under a flock of thousands of ducks and geese while trying to count their wings to divide them by two (haha), and have worked with some of the most caring and dedicated people in the World. I have the best job in the World!


How is Northern Maine National Wildlife Refuge Complex different from other refuges you’ve worked on?
This is my first opportunity to work in New England since my college days and I love it. I have spent most of my career working in flat coastal refuges, with the exception of my time in interior Alaska. Northern Maine has some incredible forests and it sure is nice to work in a refuge with some contour to the land that is accessible by roads. The three refuges within this complex have a lot of similarities and at the same time they provide very different challenges. We are protecting habitat for migratory birds, just like in some of my previous refuges, but the forest and management practices are very different. It is a good thing for me that I have an excellent staff with a lot of experience that I can depend on to help me make the right decisions.


What are your hopes for the future of the Northern Maine National Wildlife Refuge Complex?
My biggest priority as the new manager for this Complex is to guide our staff in the completion of the Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the Moosehorn NWR, which has been in the works for several years. There are various exciting projects going on in our three refuges, but the CCP for Moosehorn is the number one priority. We are doing important work with aquatic connectivity projects within and outside our boundaries, which is reopening habitat and providing for fish passage to millions of anadromous fish. These projects have brought together multiple partners, including our local tribe, and are helping us to support the Service’s priorities.


How do you spend time enjoying the outdoors with your family?
As a family we love spending time outdoors, especially hiking, hunting, fishing and doing wildlife photography. My wife home schools our two older boys and she takes them out on the refuge trails often. Not having grown up doing a lot of outdoor activities with my parents, it has been a top priority for me to make sure that my boys do and that they grow to love the nature around us. My wife grew up in Zambia and did a lot of camping, hunting and fishing with her parents, so I’ve been learning from her as well. There is so much to learn and explore and I want to pass that love on to my children. The only way they will love nature is to be out in it, exploring it, and learning about it. It’s awesome that my job and family life can join together in so many ways.



New manager at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

Join us as we welcome Kevin Sloan to the Northeast Region! Kevin will be the new project leader at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia and comes to us from Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in Illinois. Kevin is a 27-year veteran of the Service and brings a wealth of knowledge from his diverse experience with us and other conservation agencies. Learn more about Kevin and his goals for managing Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in this blog interview.


Kevin Sloan has been selected to serve as the new refuge manager at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia.

What is your professional background and experience with the Service?
I began my wildlife career doing alligator research with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries before accepting a position with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1987. Since then I’ve served in biological and management positions in eight states. I’ve worked at national fish hatcheries, field offices, national wildlife refuges, and with our Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. In 2011, I graduated from the Service’s Advanced Leadership Development Program, a training program that provides Service employees the opportunity to explore leadership in the agency and assess, learn about and develop themselves as leaders. It is quite an honor to have the chance to serve as the project leader at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, one of the crown jewels of the Refuge System.

Would you mind sharing a few aspects of your personal life, family, hobbies and interests?
My wonderful, supportive wife of 24 years, Valerie, and I have 2 children, Dhara (10) and Dustin (4) and two Australian shepherds, Jade and Ciera. Valerie is an educator at heart and enjoys homeschooling our son as well as other children. Dustin likes building aircraft, trucks and race cars with Legos. He also enjoys swimming, fishing, boating, practicing his batting skills and pretending to be a monster, dinosaur or shark. Dhara’s activities include dancing, playing piano, swimming, reading, and identifying flora and fauna. She loves animals and seems to have Dr. Dolittle/dog whisperer-like skills. She is an accomplished birder for her age and can identify at least a hundred birds on sight. She also enjoys reading the Sibley guides and other books about nature. Although our daughter has always been interested in horses, our son has recently taken an interest in them as well. And, I don’t think it’s coincidental to my having accepted the position at Chincoteague. I spent more than 20 years of my life either rock climbing, mountaineering, kayaking, or backpacking in the west. Now, I enjoy family and pets, traveling, fishing, hunting, gardening, birding, hiking, cooking, photography, music and reading about natural history.

What are your goals as the new project leader?
We will continue to manage habitat for waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, song birds, other migratory birds, and threatened and endangered species. I intend to employ a balanced management approach by maintaining the biological integrity of refuge habitats while expanding some public use opportunities. Given strong storms, dynamic coastal processes, and the uncertainty of how and when climate change will impact the coastline, I will continue the ongoing work with partners to explore sustainable approaches to increasing the resiliency of this unique barrier island system.

What kind of experience do you want visitors to have at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge?
Chincoteague is a special place and I want visitors to have a safe and enjoyable experience at the refuge. I hope visitors leave with an appreciation for the aesthetic, environmental, and economic value of wildlife and wild lands such as Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Assateague Island National Seashore as well as an appreciation for the importance of preserving these national treasures for future generations.

The draft comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and environmental impact statement (EIS) for Chincoteague and Wallops Island national wildlife refuges was recently released. What can the community look forward to regarding next steps?

Click here to stay involved in the conservation planning process and for the latest information about the refuge’s CCP.

It is extremely important for members of the public to engage in the ongoing planning process, if they haven’t already- the public comment period is open until August 15, 2014. Community input is a vital part of the planning process. Based on public feedback, we may refine and change some of the proposed actions included in our preferred alternative. After that, we will develop the final plan for approval by our agency’s leadership, which will be the guidance document for managing the refuges for the next 15 years.

How do you plan to manage a coastal refuge in a changing climate?
My plan is to utilize the best climate change science and adaptive management strategies available to inform any proposed management actions resulting from sea-level rise predictions for coastal environments. Sea-level rise predictions are subject to many variables, presenting a daunting challenge to refuge biologists and managers. As predictive science improves, we must be prepared with management strategies that allow us to adapt based on the best science and predictions available at that time. In addition, sustainability of any management direction is perhaps the most important aspect of our attempts to address the potential impacts of climate change. To embark on an unsustainable path means wasted resources and effort that could otherwise be put to better use.

Kevin will begin working as the project leader at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on October 5, 2014. He can be reached at Kevin_Sloan@fws.gov or at 757-336-6122 once he begins.