Tag Archives: urban

Bienvenidos a McKinney NWR

Ivette first joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a Yale graduate and a summer intern through our Hispanic Access Foundation partnership. She’s now joined the team full time at Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, and is making great strides in connecting with the local Hispanic community in New Haven, CT.

The transition from my summer internship to working full-time at McKinney has been great. I am thankful for the supportive staff who constantly check-in with me and provide me with the necessary resources and guidance to succeed. As the New Haven Urban Wildlife Refuge Coordinator, my responsibilities include collaborating with partners such as Yale Peabody Museum and New Haven Parks, providing environmental education at local New Haven schools, establishing new connections with community organizations, and engaging underrepresented audiences. I love working primarily on the urban wildlife refuge partnership because every day I get to do something new. One day I’m helping cleanup an island, the next I’m attending a conference, and then I get to lead activities in Spanish at the Peabody. I am also very excited because McKinney has recently gone bilingual on Facebook. Check us out!

Earlier this fall, Ivette represented the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at ¡Fiesta Latina!, an annual event at the Yale Peabody Museum that celebrates Hispanic culture. The Museum has been an integral participant of the New Haven Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, established to connect urban communities with the National Wildlife Refuge System and nature. The event, held on October 8th, featured family activities, crafts and live music, and was attended by more than 2,250 visitors!


Ivette manned an interactive and informative station featuring pelts and bilingual information about Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mission.

The visitors loved learning about the animal pelts, tracks, and scat. It was a rare opportunity for many of them to feel the pelts of local CT wildlife. They also enjoyed learning the Spanish name of each animal (beaver-castor, fox-zorro, coyote-coyote, skunk-zorrillo, and raccoon-mapache). My favorite part was when a visitor refused to touch any of the pelts because she had a slight fear of the animals, but after chatting about the importance of protecting wildlife she felt comfortable enough to touch the pelts.


The majority of visitors at the event were unaware of the USFWS and the National Wildlife Refuge System, but once they heard about all the opportunities refuges have to offer they were very excited to learn about their local refuge. A lot of them brought home maps of the refuge and couldn’t believe they didn’t know about this hidden gem in their backyard. A lot of visitors mentioned that they were looking forward to bringing their families to view the salt marsh at Stewart B. McKinney.

¡Fiesta Latina! served as a great opportunity for Ivette and other Service employees to share our mission and invite Latino families to visit their local refuge. Since the event, Ivette and other members of McKinney NWR staff have participated in a number of community service events and received a number of inquiries about how the Service can tie in to events at local community and school organizations. Most recently, McKinney NWR hosted a Fall Foliage walk, and Ivetta assisted Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity with a cleanup event at Norwalk Shea Island.

Check back soon for an update from Michael Bonilla, another Hispanic Access Foundation superstar whose work has expanded at at Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership.

Baby black rat snake found while removing fallen tree limbs (Taken by Sarah Carpe)

Conservation from an (unlikely?) source

From left to right we have Logan Kline, Sarah Carpe, Sheldon Mason and Adler (AJ) Pruitt

From left to right we have Logan Kline, Sarah Carpe, Sheldon Mason and Adler (AJ) Pruitt

Today’s post comes from Sarah Carpe, one of our Masonville Cove Baltimore Urban Conservation & Education Interns, in conjunction with the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD.

My name is Sarah, and I’m an Urban Conservation and Education Intern at Masonville Cove. From June 13th – 24th, I spent time at Patuxent Research Refuge with three other interns and my field supervisor, Molly Finch. In our time on the refuge we shadowed several positions within the conservation field.

The preservation of earth’s natural state includes a few positions that naturally come to mind. Wildlife biologist, conservationist, and environmental scientist are some common careers in conservation.

While these positions are essential, and we observed many of them at the refuge, there are some less well known jobs that are of equal importance to restoring our environment.

For a majority of our time at Patuxent Research Refuge, we worked with the facilities department. I learned that the work they do has a direct impact on the refuge. Our firsthand experience showed us the direct benefits of this job and its importance to conservation.

Facilities staff do a variety of jobs, many of which require physical labor. In the short time we spent working with them, we removed illegally dumped tires, fallen tree limbs, and massive piles of scrap aluminum, wood, and fiberglass roofing.

Interns working (Taken by Molly Finch)

Interns working (Taken by Molly Finch)

I feel as though shining a light on what the Patuxent facilities staff do is of massive importance because it had the most immediate impact of any position that I observed at Patuxent. If you didn’t know what was there a week before we cleaned the dump sites, you never had any clue.

Working for facilities isn’t entirely physical either; we viewed tons of organisms in our time outside. A short list includes foxes, wild turkeys, turtles (both box turtles and red eared sliders), frogs, toads, mice, groundhogs, dragonflies, fish, and several others.

Baby black rat snake found while removing fallen tree limbs (Taken by Sarah Carpe)

Baby black rat snake found while removing fallen tree limbs (Taken by Sarah Carpe)

The wildlife we saw while spending time with this department was so amazing because none of it was planned. Unlike a wildlife biologist where you have a predetermined animal that is is the focus of your survey (perhaps a box turtle), we saw the habitat as a whole, with all of its organisms in our focus. Facilities work gave me an eye for what Patuxent really looks like in terms of wildlife as well as its mission as part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Being in the presence of so much wildlife really connected me to the surrounding habitat as well as the other conservation positions that aren’t the typical careers. While every environmental career has an influence, facilities staff play an invaluable role in conservation that has an impact you can see instantaneously.

Protecting Springfield’s Wild Side, One Partner at a Time!


When I first began working as a park ranger at the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, I would wonder how we could possibly hope to accomplish our mission. The 7.2 million acre Connecticut River watershed is a giant piece of land and we are responsible for protecting and enhancing a huge diversity of native plants, fish and wildlife species, as well as the ecosystems they depend upon. To make matters more challenging, we directly manage only a small part of the territory we are responsible for protecting. The rest of the land is owned and managed by others.

But I was soon to learn the truth about environmental conservation… No one individual or organization can do it alone. It takes everyone working together to make a difference! This partnership approach is what the Conte refuge was built on.

Why are partnerships so effective in environmental conservation?

What I have discovered is that each person’s individual talents and experiences make them invaluable to the mission. No one individual is good at everything, but a large group of diverse individuals can come pretty close!

Earlier this year, the Conte refuge assisted in the creation of an Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership in Springfield, Massachusetts. Through this partnership, the Service is working alongside other public agencies, Springfield community organizations, area schools, and private organizations to restore the city’s natural areas. And together, we are already making an impact.


A view of the Abbey Brook restoration site. Credit: Susan Wojtowicz

Our partnership’s first project is to restore Abbey Brook, a small stream that flows through Springfield and empties into the Chicopee River, eventually flowing into the Connecticut River. This stream and the woods surrounding it has a lot of potential for providing much needed habitat for nearby wildlife; however, it has been damaged over time by pollution, harmful invasive plants, and waters that rise quickly after heavy rain storms.


Credit: Susan Wojtowicz

Many neighborhoods and schools surround the Abbey Brook site, and we are encouraging community members to become partners as well. Many of them, young and old, already use the site as a place to enjoy nature.


Credit: Susan Wojtowicz

With the community’s guidance, we hope to encourage even more community members to use the site by creating trails that will provide easier access, while protecting sensitive areas.

And just think of all of the potential educational opportunities this partnership can provide! Through classroom programming, independent studies, internship opportunities, and peer mentoring programs with area colleges and universities, students will be able to learn directly from scientists, professors, college students, environmental educators, and field professionals with a diversity of skills and backgrounds. Through these programs, we hope to encourage urban youth to become stewards of their environment and introduce them to careers in natural resource conservation.


Students from Holyoke Community College examine the Abbey Brook site to apply classroom knowledge in a real world setting. Credit: Susan Wojtowicz

America is a very big place. (And I thought the Conte Refuge was huge!) Luckily, Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships have been established in various cities throughout the United States and more are being established each year. Together we are making a much larger impact than the Service could possibly make on its own.

Partnership Map

Locations of current Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships, Credit: USFWS

Our partnership is not yet good at everything. We are still looking for additional partners to fill in the gaps. But I do know that we are much more effective as a group than we could possibly be as individual organizations.

Our work in Springfield is just beginning… But it’s a very exciting beginning!

To see more of the important work we are doing within the Connecticut River Watershed, visit the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge website.

To learn more about urban partnerships that have been established throughout the country, visit the Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships website.