Tag Archives: tom barnes

Capturing the Mission: Science Communications Internships

Interning with Student Conservation Association was the best opportunity I could have experienced as a recent college graduate. I was exposed to some amazing people and places that made my internship truly memorable. Working alongside the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s External Affairs team allowed me to tell the amazing stories of projects happening all throughout the Northeast Region, sometimes travelling to do so! On one occasion, I traveled to Maine to meet a biologist to see how far their monarch and woodcock project had come! It was rewarding to highlight their amazing story and hard work to preserve land for two species in need.

Don’t just take my word for it! SCA interns from all over have experienced everything from broadcasting to endangered species work! Let’s hear from Beth Decker, her full story is here.

We were headed out to get footage of the Puritan tiger beetles and the beaches they live on.

“For the past two summers, I have been working at the Service’s Northeast Regional Office in Hadley, Mass. in our broadcast department. We’re the side of the Service that most people may not know about- we work with our public affairs team to tell our stories using multimedia. I have had the privilege to see conservation in action, and document it so people are aware of the work we do.  I’ve documented red knots, Puritan tiger beetles, and Karner blue butterflies. I’m always excited to start my next project and show our mission in action!”

Rani Jacobson has an incredible story to tell too! Her story begins on Great Gull Island in New York.  Here’s what she learned!

Rani Jacobson with a tern chick. Credit: Venice Wong

“We learned how to trap and handle adult terns and how to record certain information, such as weight, beak length and band number. The next part of the day was devoted to banding tern chicks, which was a bit easier and much more fun. We used pliers to put bands on the legs of the chicks and recorded the band number and how many chicks and eggs were in the nest, all while being dive-bombed by the adults.  I had a fantastic week on the island.”

Here’s a look at one last intern that can turn a serious matter into a call for action. Tom Barnes communicated the seriousness of white-nose syndrome in bats in this blog, and brought a serious conservation concern to light.

Healthy Virginia big-eared bats. Bats are fascinating animals that are vital for a health environment, eating tons of insects nightly, benefiting our crops, our forests and us. Credit: Craig Stihler / WVDNR

“Despite their long association with vampires, haunted houses and the uncanny in general, bats are facing a horror story of their own. The disease white-nose syndrome has decimated bat populations in our region, killing nearly all hibernating bats in some areas. And it’s spreading — first documented in a New York cave in the winter of 2006-2007, the disease or the fungus that causes it (Pseudogymnoascus destructans) is now found in 33 states. Experts fear that some bats are even becoming extinct in certain areas. If one thing’s clear, we shouldn’t be afraid of bats. We should be afraid for them.”

As interns, it’s our job to share these stories and learn from the incredible adventures along the way. Interested ? We’re looking for two communication interns for our Fisheries & Aquatic Connectivity and Ecological Services programs. These 10-month paid positions will be located at our regional office in Hadley, Massachusetts. Click here for more information.

More great intern stories with USFWS External Affairs!

Restoring rivers in Southwest Virginia

On an unseasonably chilly day in March, a team assembled from our offices across the Northeast and Southeast began taking down a decrepit dam that for years blocked the Middle Fork of the Holstom River. It would take four days to break apart the dam and extract the rubble. But by the end of the week, the river would be moving free again.

The excavator pictured next to the dam. As you can see, the dam had already been breached. Credit: Tom Barnes / USFWS

The excavator pictured next to the dam. As you can see, the dam had already been breached. Credit: Tom Barnes / USFWS

The dam was built in 1911 alongside an ice factory that shuttered more than forty years ago. In recent years, it’d become a public nuisance. By working with the local landowner and the town of Marion, the Service removed both the cinderblock factory structure as well as the dam.

For this project, we relied on the expertise of the Management Assistance Team–a highly efficient six-person Service team on retainer for projects across the nation. It’s one of the many ways that we are increasing our efficiency and saving resources.

By removing this dam, we anticipate the riverbed to return to its former, natural state. Aquatic species will then be able to move farther upstream, including fish like the endangered slender chub and yellowfin madtom. Freshwater mussels, traveling upstream with their fish hosts, will also be able to move back into the newly restored aquatic habitat.

Removing the dam also opens up the river for people, too. Now, people that live near the river can recreate throughout the newly restored waterway, fishing and boating without having to worry about a damaged structure blocking the river.

Throughout the Upper Tennessee River basin, waterways have been polluted by industry or blocked by dams and or other structures. By restoring this and other rivers, our agency hopes to improve the ecosystem of the entire area.

The great monarch migration

For some, fall means the start of school, football and pumpkin spice latte season — beyond that, it’s also the time monarch butterflies fly thousands of miles from as far north as Canada to overwinter in Mexico. That’s right, these fragile insects can travel up to 5000 miles to their wintering grounds.

It’s a trip that takes several generations to get there, but amazingly, monarchs will winter in the same trees that their (now-distant) ancestor used last winter.

Monarchs feedings at Rachel Carson NWR. Credit: David Tibbetts

Monarchs feeding at Rachel Carson NWR. Credit: David Tibbetts

But there’s a problem. While monarchs aren’t considered endangered, there’s evidence that they might be heading that way. One reason monarchs are failing is that milkweed is disappearing from the American landscape. Scientists blame land-use practices such as farming with crops genetically modified to resist herbicides. The herbicides kill plants such as milkweed that grow around farm fields and have no such protection. Development has also chewed up monarch habitat.  Milkweed is the host plant for monarchs—the lone plant on which the butterflies lay their eggs in spring and the only food source for monarch larvae.

More monarchs feeding at Rachel Carson! Credit: David Tibbetts

More monarchs feeding at Rachel Carson! Credit: David Tibbetts

Knowing that we need more habitat for these creatures, here’s some work that the Service is doing to ensure monarchs have an ample number of milkweed plants:

At Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Resources Office, a summer intern built, planted and maintained a pollinator garden. Educational signage will be going up posthaste.

Lake Champlain's summer intern finishing up the pollinator garden! Credit: USFWS

Lake Champlain’s summer intern finishing up the pollinator garden! Credit: USFWS

At the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge, staff built three butterfly gardens to provide more milkweed habitat for monarchs and other butterflies. They also provide numerous opportunities for the public to learn more about these creatures with regular butterfly educational programs that focus on monarchs.

Friends of the 500th, the Friends Group of Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in West Virginia, is in the process of building a pollinator garden. They’re hoping to spread awareness about the issue of disappearing monarchs.

Here's the start of the Canaan Valley NWR pollinator garden! Credit: USFWS

Here’s the start of the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge pollinator garden! Credit: USFWS

At Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia, the staff are supporting the monarch migration by planting seaside goldenrod — one of the butterfly’s favorite snacks along the way. In fact, volunteers and organized groups have planted thousands of seaside goldenrod plants in cooperation with The Chincoteague Monarch Monitoring Project for the last 17 years!

If you want to lend a hand in helping the monarch make it to Mexico, try planting milkweed, goldenrod or other plants the insect likes. Find out more here.

Volunteers planting a community pollinator garden in Mashpee! Credit: Friends of Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge

Volunteers planting a community pollinator garden in Mashpee, Massachusetts! Credit: Friends of Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge