Blog

22 September 2020

 My Fellowship at U.S. Fish & Wildlife Comes to an End…but this isn’t Goodbye…


Written by: Ashley Oelsen


As I prepared my final program requirement, a presentation to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Conservation Banking Tracking Compliance - I reflected on the events of the last few months.  

Throughout the Directorate Fellowship Summer Program, there were many significant occurrences in time. Communities across the country experienced monumental challenges, moments of historical proportion, and a collision of unrest and speaking truth to power fighting for racial equality with protests in all fifty states.  All of this in the middle of a global pandemic where we are isolated at home and disconnected from the people we care about. 

I don’t think anyone could have planned for the Covid-19 pandemic and how all of our lives would drastically change.  Working remotely via teleconference for U.S. Fish and Wildlife was not how I had imagined it would be when accepting the Directorate Fellowship Position.  However, making the best out of a difficult situation – we all rallied.  

We faced personal and professional challenges over the last 11 weeks, and through this, I have discovered a new sense of hope for our future because of the people I have met during my time at USFWS.  I have renewed my faith in those individuals working hard to protect our environment.     

Through the DFP program, I have learned a great deal about how the federal government manages conservation.  I have a deeper understanding of conservation in real-time and the methods and tools used to attain these goals.   A career with U.S. Fish and Wildlife provides an opportunity to make a real impact in the field of conservation in my country and community.

By participating in this fellowship, I expected to gain professional experience while learning how conservation is conducted from a federal agency perspective, and grow as an individual with a continued passion for the environment.  I hoped to develop a clear path for a future career with USFWS by fulfilling my project responsibilities and performing well.  However, I never anticipated the incredible support that I received from the agency and the valuable relationships that I built while completing the project. 

 

My project goals:

 

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I feel a sense of accomplishment and believe my work significantly contributed to FWS.  My project focused on monitoring compliance for conservation banks, which had gone unaddressed for far too long due to the time required in record and reporting review.  I gained a new perspective on the realities of working for a government agency.  Truthfully, I envisioned a more bureaucratic environment heavy in process-driven work, but in fact, I found FWS to be dynamic, inclusive, and supportive. 

Through compliance tracking, all evidence suggests that conservation banks in Southern California are useful tools to conserve and mitigate impacts to California’s native habitat and its endangered and threatened species.

To learn more about Conservation Banking with USFWS - visit https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/conservation_banking.pdf

 

Looking forward to the future:

I have decided to continue as a volunteer for conservation banking compliance tracking for the USFWS Carlsbad office.  Considering the limitations surrounding the pandemic, in the future, I hope to have more opportunities to work with colleagues in a face-to-face setting as well as increased time in the field conducting site visits.  I have already scheduled a few site visits to my bank locations. This will help crystalize conservation banking while providing an opportunity to verify the land is being managed according to the banking agreement and management plan.

 

Special Thanks:

I want to thank everyone at the Fish & Wildlife Service. I am genuinely impressed and grateful for the amount of time and resources invested into myself and other DFPs. This opportunity proved educational by providing insight into the agency and how the federal government manages conservation.

I am heartened and inspired by the level of camaraderie and support I experienced during my time here; everyone I approached with a question was generous with their time and expertise. Special shout out to the DFP program coordinators at National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia, having to get creative during the pandemic so that the DFP’s could still participate, and the Hispanic Access Foundation for managing the human resources component and guiding the process.  

 

I appreciate this opportunity; it was an honor to contribute to the Fish & Wildlife Service. 

 

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Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP

Location: Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office

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