08 July 2021

Making the Most out of a Challenging Situation

Written by: Emma Chan

It would be an understatement to say that COVID-19 has drastically changed how people learn, work, and play over the past year. Before I began my remote position as a directorate fellow with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I was very excited about my project with the Patuxent Research Refuge, but I was also nervous about communicating virtually on a daily basis. I worried that I would miss out on networking with people in an office and doing field work. Also, the office that I would work with was located on the opposite side of the country from California, where I live, so there would be a three-hour time difference. However, my experience as a DFP has been incredible so far and my supervisors have been extremely helpful in ensuring that I have a meaningful experience.

For the past few weeks, I have been working with long term data from migratory bird hunter surveys with the goal of developing data visualizations. I have had some difficulties working with such large data sets, but as a result, I have learned valuable skills that I will be able to use in future jobs and internships. I also recognize that it is a privilege that the Fish and Wildlife Service trusts me with handling so much data from all over the country, and I want to take that responsibility seriously. This experience has reminded me that human actions significantly affect wildlife management, and that it is important to consider social context when making decisions about conservation. For example, a sample of hunters are selected to send in wings from the birds that they harvest and biologists can use these wings to determine the birds’ ages. Aggregating all of this data allows biologists to calculate approximate reproduction rates to monitor waterfowl populations. For this reason, hunter survey participation rates can affect the quality of waterfowl population data.   

I have already met several incredible people over Microsoft Teams in just a few weeks because the Patuxent office has reached out to members of the USFWS and USGS for me to set up meetings. However, this experience has also taught me the importance of being proactive and reaching out to people myself. My career advisor has encouraged me to contact members of the US Fish and Wildlife Service if I am interested in their current positions and responsibilities, which would be an important skill even if I was not in a remote environment. Despite the challenges that have arisen over the past year, I am excited to see what I learn and who I meet for the rest of the summer. And in the meantime, I have been exploring the beautiful natural habitats in California on my own. 

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: Directorate Fellow Program

Location: Patuxent NWR

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