Tag Archives: us fish and wildlife service

Improvements of culvert designs can increase the safety of surrounding communities and commuters. Credit: Steve Droter

People Behind a Stronger Coast: Julie Devers

Just outside of Centreville, Maryland, you can find Julie Devers waist deep in water on the side of the road. With measuring tape in hand, she is assessing one of more than 30,000 road-stream crossings in the state.  The particular culverts she is examining are known to be a severe barrier to fish passage. Safety for people and connectivity for fish and wildlife can be enhanced by simply repairing and redesigning these crossings.

Devers is a fish biologist with the Maryland Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office. By partnering with the Maryland State Highway Administration, NOAA Fisheries and Maryland Department of Natural Resources, they have been assessing road-stream crossings to develop recommendations of which culverts and crossings should be prioritized for repair. “Highways have a maintenance schedule,” says Devers, and through their recommendations, “the SHA could replace [the culverts] when they redo the highway.”

Entire roads can be wiped out if they are undersized or poorly designed.  “What we saw in the Northeast during Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee is that undersized culverts really caused a lot of damage,” says Devers. Flooding from storm surges are not able to pass through these barriers and can cause thousands of dollars of damage to roads and property. As we mark the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation of the Atlantic Coast, it is important to keep in mind the impact that these climate events can have on our communities.

For species of river herrings like alewife, blueback herring and American shad the difference between a fish-friendly passageway and a severe barrier is more than a safety concern; it’s about life or death. These species are vital to the food web. Alewife have been known to be eaten by nearly anything throughout their transition in habitat; ranging from cod, halibut, fox, and eagles.

These migratory species travel from saltwater to freshwater to lay their eggs. If there are blockages along the way, they won’t be able to complete their journey. Even for nonmigratory species, such as brook trout, the inability to travel upstream could leave entire populations separated causing a genetic bottleneck. The brook trout stream near her home, one of the last in Anne Arundel County, says Devers, is considered a “relic” to the locals.

Across the whole Northeast, there are an estimated 210,000 bridges, culverts, and dams spanning 280,000 miles of river. Many of them, you are passing on your morning commute and are throughout your community. While many of these dams and bridges serve important purposes, old and inadequate designs make them a risk.

After Hurricane Sandy, funding through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 has supported dozens of projects to restore rivers and streams and remove barriers to connectivity. With this funding, projects throughout Maryland have been able to better protect their communities and coastline through increases resiliency. Groups like the North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative were able to utilize this funding to create a map and database for biologists like Devers and for the public to use. These tools provide information about the assessed barriers in a region and rates how bad they are for fish passage or safety.

Through the work of biologists like Devers, we are able to make our communities more resilient. By working to identify the features in our communities that could pose a risk to people and wildlife, she is giving stakeholders the tools to create the change needed to make us #StrongerAfterSandy.

This is the second in a five part series of photo slideshows highlighting the people who have been working to defend their coastal ecosystems against storms in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Last week, we looked at Matt Whitbeck and Miles Simmons in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. You can view the continuation of this series and other news regarding our restoration and recovery projects on our website.

Planting for pollinators at a Philly landmark

As warmer weather arrives in the Northeast, flowers and trees are blooming and pollinating insects are emerging. What better time to continue our project installing a pollinator garden at Independence National Historical Park! While bees, moths, and flies are enjoying the spring weather, monarch butterflies are making their journey north from Mexico and should be arriving in areas throughout the Northeast in about a month! The monarchs arriving will be the offspring of monarchs that overwintered in Mexico, and will use this garden and others like it. Be sure to plant milkweed for monarchs!

13063223_1272830019397046_6005490164127759678_o

Student Conservation Association Community Crews with their completed garden

Last month, we partnered with our friends at the National Park Service to begin work with Student Conservation Association community crews on phase one of this project. The garden will provide wildlife-friendly green space for people, as well as habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators. In addition to great habitat, this garden will be a useful tool in reaching the community and its visitors to share the importance of pollinators, especially for our nation’s agricultural crops. It will also extend the reach of John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge further into the city, providing an opportunity for people to learn more about wildlife conservation, especially those who may not normally not get a chance to visit the refuge in southwest Philly.

On our first days at the garden, we tackled weeds and demolished the garden’s existing English ivy. Most recently, community crews returned to plant the native wildflowers for our local pollinators.

Planting begins!

Planting begins!

The morning was very busy as we worked to distribute mulch and prepare the ground for plants.

13055639_1272829602730421_1021297593032122379_o

Spreading mulch….and taking a few pics!

After lunch, we transitioned into planting the native wildflowers! Hundreds of plugs were carefully laid out and planted. While these plugs look little now, beebalm, irises, asters and more will soon populate the entire space. The flowers were carefully selected to be several different colors and bloom throughout the spring, summer, and fall. This will attract many different species of pollinators and ensure they have food throughout the year.

Plugs laid out for planting.

Plugs laid out for planting.

13041482_1272829352730446_568641945387781675_o

Transplanting young plants can be delicate work and the students took it seriously.

Right now, we wait. We’re watering the plants and checking their progress; they seem to be doing okay. Check out the different stages of the garden below and stay tuned for the next installment!

Click here to learn more about you can help monarchs and other pollinators.

Sharing #herstory for Women’s History Month – Beth Ciuzio Freiday

We’re celebrating Women’s History Month by highlighting some of the amazing skilled and dedicated women we have working in the Service.

Beth Freiday-herstory

Name: Beth Ciuzio Freiday

Title: Partners for Wildlife Coordinator

Duty station: New Jersey Field Office

Amount of time worked in public service:  15 years

How much of this at USFWS? 6 years

Who is your female conservation hero or mentor? Why?

I am quite inspired by Secretary Jewel. She has spent a fair amount of her career in business, but her transition to head of the Department of the Interior was seamless. She is an example to me that you can literally do anything you put your mind toward doing.

When you began your career, did you ever see yourself working for USFWS?

No, I thought I wanted to work for a state agency. But I did that and it was not what I expected it to be.

The mission of the Service is “Working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people” How do you contribute to this mission?

As a Partners for Wildlife biologist, I am most successful at my job when I influence the actions of private landowners. So the core part of my work is focused on our mission.

It takes a special person to dedicate their lives to public service. Why did you choose this path?

I like to be challenged at work. Public service is challenging, but the rewards of helping people and the environment are worth the work.

What do you like best about working for the USFWS?

What I like best about the USFWS is that we are always pushing ourselves to improve, learn, and be better at whatever we are doing. I like the focus on professional development. When I walk in a room, my colleagues know they are working with someone who is well trained and knowledgeable. I can only be that person with the support of my organization.

Want to see more of the women working to conserve wildlife? Check out all of the profiles on Flickr!