An Unexpected Adventure

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is comprised of sprawling wetlands nestled in the Minneapolis sprawl.

During my time at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, I’ve learned that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is a fantastic organization to work for. My supervisors have gone above and beyond to give me exciting new career development opportunities, and one in particular has stood out from the rest.

Thanks to both Environment for the Americas (EFTA) and the USFWS, I was given the opportunity to attend the USFWS Region 3 annual Intern Workshop at the regional office in Bloomington, Minnesota. It was my first time traveling to an agency workshop, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the week-long experience. I got to present my internship, meet other interns from across the Midwest, and make valuable networking connections with agency employees. I also got to advocate for continued partnerships with EFTA and the Fish and Wildlife Service to Region 3 leadership! Most of the days were spent watching presentations and seminars about federal careers, but highlights included canoeing on a lake, visiting Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and a World Cafe opportunity with representatives from 14 different program areas within the USFWS. I found the most interesting programs to be the Partners for Fish and Wildlife, and Fisheries. 

I wasn’t too familiar with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, but after only a brief conversation with the Region 3 Lead, the program seemed like a perfect fit for my interests. The program aims to work with private landowners to enhance and restore habitat on their land, through complex, multifaceted projects. Not only do workers get to spend time in the field conducting biological surveys and restoration projects, but they also get to cultivate relationships with local landowners and frequently collaborate with other organizations. As Iowa’s Private Lands State Coordinator explained to me, those working in the Partners program are “people-person biologists.” 

Visiting Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge was also a great experience. Nestled right in the Minnesota River Valley in the bustling Minneapolis metro, the refuge is incredibly unique and a sight to behold. We were given a history tour of the refuge, as well as a cookout picnic as the sunset blanketed the river valley with warm light. It was a trip to remember. 

When I started this internship, I had no idea that I’d be traveling to conferences and networking, but I couldn’t be more grateful.

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