Through my HAF fellowship at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service headquarters, I have been able to see a side of the Service most early professionals don’t see. It has been fascinating to observe inner workings of a federal agency at the highest level. Playing an active role in headquarters still has me perplexed as I regularly ask myself, “Wow, how did I end up here?”
In the last few months, I have coordinated with Fish and Wildlife employees across the country, been part of the selection process for grant funding, and assisted in preparing presentations for Service leadership, including Director Aurelia Skipwith herself! I had never considered that this level of work could become my reality. Additionally, to be able to support a program that directly engages systematically marginalized communities in wildlife conservation makes the experience all the more fulfilling.
As I look forward to my career and beyond the privilege of working from home during the pandemic, I yearn to apply myself at field stations. I was fortunate enough to visit the National Wildlife Refuges Occoquan Bay, Back Bay, and Great Dismal Swamp while it was safe to travel. The beautiful natural resources, and stories of Black and brown kids having meaningful experiences on refuges, inspired me to commit wholeheartedly to the work behind the scenes and work my way towards implementing the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program myself someday.
My time at headquarters and visiting in the field has shown me that conservation necessitates more than having hard skills in science. I have a greater understanding of the utility of collaboration, communication, flexibility, and interpersonal skills. I am now more confident in my capacity to execute the USFWS mission in multifaceted ways that meet the needs of the public and the environment.
Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service
Location: USFS Headquarters, Washington Office