Steve Agius has traveled the globe visiting many exciting and interesting places, including working in Antarctica with penguins and elephant seals. He’s now recently settled in Vermont as the new manager of the Nulhegan Basin Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. I had the opportunity to ask Steve a few questions about his experiences, and I’m sharing some of his adventures here with you today.
How did you end up on your career path?
Growing up in New Jersey gave me the opportunity to explore the coast and many great state parks. In middle school I became interested in rock and ice climbing, and backpacking. I made a deal with my parents that if I could make the honor roll than I could take extended weekend backpacking trips to the Adirondack, Catskill and White mountains. By high school, my grades had dramatically improved and I was allowed the freedom to explore the mountains of New England. In the late 90s, I spent a month north of the Brooks Range in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. To be honest, I have never been the same person since visiting the Arctic. That refuge sparked a conservation passion inside of me that continues to this day.
Tell us more about your professional background?
I have a B.S. in Ecology and a M.S. in Zoology. My formal training has focused on birds, specifically colonial nesting seabirds. As far as conservation jobs, I have worked for the Service in California, Maine and Vermont, and for NOAA in South America and Antarctica. I have also worked for the State of Maine’s wildlife program, and for the Peregrine Fund at the Grand Canyon and Zion national parks. I have dabbled as an adjunct professor at Unity College and the University of Maine.
How is the Nulhegan refuge different from other refuges where you’ve worked?
From 2002 through 2010, I worked at the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex. In 2011, I moved inland and worked at the Northern Maine refuge complex. The forest management focus at the Conte refuge is VERY different from seabird management. I loved being on the water in the Gulf of Maine, but working to develop and implement long term forest management plans (though daunting) is exciting work. Trying to restore forests that have been substantially altered by more than a century of industrial timber practices, while promoting priority wildlife species is a not an easy task.
Would you share a story about your greatest accomplishment and what it meant to you?
It can be hard as a federal employee to immediately recognize our accomplishments. We spend so much time responding to emails and focused on a screen that it can be a challenge to come up for air and see the world around us. Often it’s not about the big success stories that make a difference, but the little triumphs that keep us smiling and motivated. I take pride in the simple accomplishments like finalizing an agreement that prevents the National Guard from driving hummers in upland sandpiper habitat at Aroostook refuge, or performing a logistics support role to improve aquatic organism passage on lands around Moosehorn refuge, or overseeing the installation of 600’ of boardwalk at Sunkhaze refuge. Sure, we all love flashy success stories, but my pride comes from the little triumphs that add up to a bigger success.
Do you have a personal motto about your life and career?
I believe in integrity. A person has to be accountable for their actions, respectful of others, and honest at all times. Maybe it has to do with being an Eagle Scout, but I would say that integrity best defines how I operate.