Greetings from the Visitor Services Intern at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge!

Hello, my name is Jessica Duez. When I was a young girl growing up in a small town in Iowa, I was naturally drawn towards animals, nature, and the environment. I was the girl that picked up trash in the park unsolicited, yelled at the other kids to stop throwing rocks at the squirrels and the birds in the trees, and loved the cows and pigs that were raised on the farms just outside of town. I grew up thinking that I would someday be a veterinarian. Though I still love animals, my career goals have evolved since then.

When I was 14, my family moved to Toledo, Ohio, where my mother is from. During my time in high school, I was enrolled in the Agricultural and Environmental Technologies Career Program. I was first introduced to Ottawa NWR, just 15 miles to the East of where I live when volunteering with my Ag class to pull invasive Phragmites. I fell in love with the Refuge and made it an annual tradition to take the Wildlife Drive in early May for my birthday, alongside visitors from all across the world flocking here to celebrate the Biggest Week in American Birding. They say that Northwest Ohio is “the Warbler Capital of the World.” And boy, do bird watchers love warblers!

I went off to Kent State University for my first year of college to earn my pre-vet degree in Zoology. After that first year, I decided I wanted to go back home and transfer to the University of Toledo. After an internship at a safari park and a job at a veterinary office, I no longer felt that I was cut out for veterinary medicine. I felt more passionately about wildlife and the environment and decided to switch gears and change majors. In December of 2017, I earned my B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Organismal Biology and Ecology. 

After college, I worked as a carrier with the United States Postal Service until early 2021, when I left to pursue a career in conservation. I was fortunate enough to became the Visitor Services Intern at Ottawa NWR from March 2021- December 2021, sponsored by the Friends of Ottawa NWR. I worked on many incredible projects during my internship, and I was sad to think it was coming to an end. That was until I found out about the internship through Environment for the Americas. I am grateful and excited to have the opportunity to continuing work at the Refuge with the incredible refuge staff this year! 

A few of my hobbies and interests include scuba diving, snorkeling, hiking, camping, traveling, visiting National Parks, antiquing, and going to concerts!

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