Tag Archives: Young and Wild

Hammer and a nail: Building a team

Krystal K

We’re closing out our summer Young N’ Wild series with Krystal Krejcik, who led the Youth Conservation Corps crew at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge this summer.

I had no idea what to expect. While working as an intern, I could rely on my education and experiences to at least give me some vague idea of what I was getting myself into. However, my degree in fisheries and wildlife did not prepare me to lead a group of five, spirited teenage boys for the summer.

As most people know, working in a group can sometimes be difficult. Attitude and group dynamics are key components in making or breaking the success of a team. After the first two days of working with the Youth Conservation Corps crew, I was unsure of how each individual’s role would develop. Each boy came with a unique background and story. There were both veteran crew members and high school students who had never had a job before. As days turned into weeks, I was impressed as the older boys guided the “newbies.” Between their rambunctious teenage personalities, each crew member started showing leadership characteristics by displaying an exemplary work ethic and having fun while doing so.

YCC Back Bay

During the summer, we worked to re-deck a fishing pier on one of the refuge’s freshwater impoundments.

During our eight weeks together, I was excited and proud of what we accomplished. We would regularly assist with the cleaning and upkeep of our visitor contact station and the surrounding gardens. On top of our weekly responsibilities, we completed projects for the biological, visitor services, and maintenance staff. One venture included re-decking a pier in one of the freshwater impoundments to provide visitors with a better fishing experience. Another task was to remove the fast growing loblolly pine trees on reforestation sites to increase the chance of survival for the legacy, hardwood tree species. We also worked on projects at nearby refuges, constructed a fence, and built benches for various look-outs throughout refuge. The range of our work allowed the members of the crew to understand some of the many aspects of maintaining a national wildlife refuge.

In addition, the Back Bay interns offered up some of their time each week to participate in a mentorship program with the YCC members. Each intern was paired up with a YCC member to give them an opportunity to learn and connect with someone who could provide some guidance. Activities included icebreakers, advice on professionalism and educational opportunities including attending bird surveys, relocation of a loggerhead sea turtle nest, a trip to the Virginia Aquarium, and of course, playing a competitive game of wildlife jeopardy.

I am not surprised by what we accomplished during our time at the refuge. It can be attributed to the characters of the young adults that I had the opportunity to work with this summer. Although on paper I was the “leader,” they each stepped up throughout the summer guiding and encouraging each other, and giving their best effort regardless of the conditions. The Youth Conservation Corps program gave them the opportunity to learn new skills, meet new people, experience work in the conservation field, and create memories to take with them from an unforgettable summer.

Capturing the mission

Beth Decker

Young N’ Wild brings us on a journey through the lens with Beth Decker. Whether documenting the plight of endangered species or creatively conveying the message of conservation through video, Beth works to help show our mission in action.

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. All along the way, I get to meet some amazing people.

Usually I’m filming or editing a video after getting the chance to visit one of our national wildlife refuges or field offices. I’ve had some great experiences here:

  • I worked on a project to document red knots, migratory birds that travel from lower South America to the Artic Circle for their migration. I met bird surveyors from New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom, who monitor a different subspecies of these birds at other times of the year.
  • I’ve filmed endangered Karner blue butterflies that are about the size of a quarter and have beautiful blue wings. I witnessed biologists releasing them into their natural habitat and learned how their numbers were increasing in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve because of these releases.

    Beth filming

    Here, I was filming Karner blue butterflies at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve in New York.

  • I also got footage of the endangered Puritan tiger beetle that lives on these huge cliffs that are continuously falling into the ocean. These continuous falls help the beetles because they need the fresh sand and require small amounts of vegetation.

    Beth still on a boat copy

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

  • As part of an effort to document old remnants that were washing ashore the beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, I helped to film a wreck tagging training so that Service staff and volunteers would know how to document old objects that are found on the beach from ship wrecks that happened hundreds of years ago.

I enjoy all of the work that I do, whether its out in the field amidst all the action, or at my computer screen trying to make a video that will convey the importance of our conservation mission. I’m always excited to start my next project and show our mission in action!

Helping critters in the river and the sky

Crystal Ambrose

Today in the Young N’ Wild series, you’re hearing from Crystal Ambrose, a visitor services specialist at Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge in Williamstown, W.V.

There were no job openings when I came across the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge. But that didn’t stop me; I decided to jump right in and volunteer with the refuge’s friends group and also helped with tree plantings, trash pick-ups and managing deer hunts.

Eventually, I landed a job as a visitor services specialist through the Pathways program. Visitor services are a crucial part of gaining public support and informing the community of our mission. This is an especially challenging task at the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, since it is spread out over 362 miles along the Ohio River. I plan, prepare, and carry out educational programs that teach visitors about refuge lands and native wildlife. My main objective is to make sure everyone has a great experience during his or her visit. We stay pretty busy with numerous field trips from schools, camps, scout groups, and many other organizations. Additionally, during the summer we hold youth programs that are open to the public. Two of my personal favorites are “Insect Safari” and “Be a Junior Biologist for a Day.” Our goal is to get children interested in nature at a young age so they can later become good stewards of the land.

Inland Waterways - Mussel Match

A family enjoying the mussel match game at the Inland Waterways Festival.

The neat thing about my job is that it doesn’t end with public outreach. I gain a broad range of field experience by helping with biological surveys and wildlife management. I was even fortunate enough to do work details at both White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery and Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. I have helped our biologist restock freshwater mussels into the Ohio River in areas that can once again support healthy, diverse populations. Freshwater mussels are one of the key faunal groups that the refuge focuses on protecting. It is amazing to see the significant environmental benefits mussels provide to their ecosystem as a filter feeder.

I also conduct bat surveys on the islands after sunset. During the survey, we collect critical data that will be used to track the diversity of species and long-term population trends, using computer software, GPS, and an ultrasonic receiver. The ultrasonic receiver converts the high frequency sound produced by bats into an audible sound, which identifies the species without capture. This data is being used to quantify the devastating effects that White-Nose Syndrome has on bat populations in North America.

Bat Survey on Muskingum Islands

This photo is a little hard to see, but I was collecting bat data on Muskingum Island.

Working at the refuge has definitely been a unique experience. Everyone’s willingness to share their knowledge and skills has shown me the diversity of opportunities within the Service. My experience has given me a once in a lifetime opportunity and I have truly found a career path that I am passionate about and hope to continue.