This year, we checked in with some of our past interns to find out what came next after their internship ended. Did they stay with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or land another sweet job? We hope they put those skills to good use! Look out for these stories to find out about their life after the internship. Today, meet Ryan Kleinert, super smart wildlife biologist and piping plover coordinator. Below, find out where he started with us and how he got where he is now.
My love of all things wild and deep fascination with shorebirds was cultivated at an early age. Family trips to the New Jersey shore where I would explore, surf, and swim planted a seed that germinated into a deep passion for conservation and biodiversity, and eventually blossomed into a career as a wildlife biologist.
Ryan Kleinert is a wildlife biologist and piping plover coordinator working at the Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
After graduating high school, I yearned to explore the natural world and to intimately experience biodiversity. I moved to the Southern Appalachians of western North Carolina to immerse myself in botany and was fortunate to work as a botany assistant at a native plant sanctuary in Asheville, North Carolina. My six-year hiatus from academia brought me all over the country and eventually to the Adirondack Mountains where I lived in a little cabin completely free of electricity and surrounded by extensive wilderness. I spent my time between high school and college exploring the natural world by hiking, canoeing, botanizing, birding, hunting, and fishing. I took advantage of this time to immerse myself in the wilderness and surround myself with the things that I love – plants and animals. My bookshelves were (and still are) filled with topographic maps and field guides and every day was an adventure to find species that I had never seen before. I wanted to have a positive impact on the world and decided that continuing my formal education would be the best path towards actualizing my goals in preserving biodiversity.
During my first field season at the University of Rhode Island, I was fortunate to be a coastal fellow for the Rhode Island Natural History Survey. One of my main projects for the summer, working with the Service’s coastal program, was to map invasive species throughout John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge and other properties in Rhode Island. That wonderful partnership created the opportunity for me to begin my career with the Service as a biological science technician, or bio-tech, in the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) the following spring.
Birding at Sandy Point in Rhode Island
I spent an amazing year working on a wide range of conservation issues and projects. I finished my term with a diverse skill set and was eager to acquire even more experience. I was fortunate to continue with the Service as a STEP for another year, but this time with the Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex. I worked mainly on shorebird conservation and recovery, including piping plovers, least terns, and American oystercatchers, but also got a wide range of experiences such as songbird banding, vegetation surveys, and New England cottontail monitoring. In addition, I had the opportunity to respond as a technical specialist to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, perform fieldwork for salt marsh integrity, and developed habitat management plans. I graduated at the same time that this STEP term was coming to an end and was fortunate to be hired as a bio-tech for the Rhode Island National Wildlife Complex.
My time as a bio-tech through the STEP program and after I graduated established the foundation and skill set that was required to develop into an effective and well-rounded wildlife biologist. I am extremely thankful and appreciative of the opportunities that were given to me to grow as a biologist during my time as a student and recent graduate.
So what exactly does a wildlife biologist and piping plover coordinator do? Check out this article to get another look at Ryan’s world.
This June, I accepted a position as a wildlife biologist and the piping plover coordinator for the Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex. I absolutely love the conservation work that I do and find it incredibly rewarding and an absolute honor to be involved in the recovery of piping plovers. I am motivated by species recovery, habitat restoration, and community based conservation and it is a pleasure to work with landowners, local land trusts, seasonal staff, my Service colleagues, partners, and state agencies to achieve recovery goals. I strongly believe that effective conservation needs to be community based and my position as the piping plover coordinator for the complex provides me with the awesome opportunity to interact with and engage the public about endangered species management. I am extremely excited to work as a wildlife biologist for the Service and do my part to conserve and recover declining species.