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04 March 2022

My First Month as a Civilian Climate Corp Fellow


Written by: Benjamin Newman


Hi everyone, my name is Benjamin (Ben) Newman. I am currently working at the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge Complex and at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as an advanced fellow with the Civilian Climate Corp (CCC) of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in partnership with the Hispanic Access Foundation. 

To give you all an idea of my work's structure as a CCC fellow, one of the main frameworks fellows are using to conduct our research is called Resist-Accept-Direct (RAD). This framework provides a way to respond to ecological transformation, especially to new, unexperienced conditions. Ultimately, through the RAD climate change vulnerability analyses each of the fellows will be conducting, we will be able to develop recommendations and inform decision-making regarding how to adapt to climate change on each of our respective refuges. 

For Willapa National Wildlife Refuge Complex, one of the most daunting challenges climate change is causing is sea-level rise. Many species that call the refuge complex home are potentially in jeopardy if current sea level rise patterns continue in the Pacific Northwest. The big picture question that I will be trying to answer during my fellowship is: How can we resist, accept, and direct the effects of climate change at Willapa in order to continue to meet refuge objectives and maintain the ecological integrity of the ecosystems?

For Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, my goal is to contribute to updating the refuge's water budget based on predictive climate change models. Being in a drier climate in eastern Oregon, Malheur is affected by drought and slowly decreasing levels of precipitation. Due to this, figuring out how to allocate Malheur's limited water resources is a top priority for the refuge.

As fellows, we are at phase one of the RAD framework assessment process. For me, this has mostly involved doing literature reviews and collecting climatic data and climate change data that is relevant to the immediate area in and around Willapa National Wildlife Refuge Complex, as well as data from studies that look at regional climate change projections. In my case, this has consisted of finding updated data sets for Willapa Bay that provide mean sea level rise projections, average annual temperature projections, and average annual precipitation projections, among others. 

I have also had the chance to go out in the field a couple of times and shadow the refuge wildlife biologist with deer trapping and relocation, which has been a nice way of learning about different aspects of the work at Willapa hands-on.

One of the best aspects of the position thus far has been the support I have received from mentors at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I have worked closely with biologists and managers within the National Wildlife Refuge System, the Ecological Services Branch, Science Applications, and the Regional Office in my Region (Region 1). I have also had the chance to talk to other scientists across multiple disciplines in state government, the federal government, and academia who are also doing climate change research.   

Coming up with solutions to the daunting problems climate change is causing is intimidating and, at times, discouraging. Solutions require time, dedication, research, and most of all, creativity, which many times extends beyond what we learn in school and from reading papers. Coming up with solutions to the challenges climate change poses is something that I am already starting to face head-on, and I look forward to creatively approaching them more through this amazing opportunity.  

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: Civilian Climate Corps Program (CCC)

Location: Willapa and Malhuer NWRs

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Hispanic Access Foundation connects Latinos and others with partners and opportunities to improve lives and create an equitable society.

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