15 May 2022

What it Means to be a Civilian Climate Corps Fellow

Written by: Daniel Asyn

While connecting with the land and the community in the Low Country here in South Carolina has been great, its also important to remember why we are doing this. This fellowship is designed to be an 18-month long program to develop a rapid climate vulnerability and risk assessment at our stations. While my focus is on Santee NWR, the hope is that through the program, fellows will develop a framework or product that can be applicable to other refuges across the nation. Getting boots on the ground working with biologists and equipment operators and reading through the plans and documents of the refuge has allowed us the opportunity of really getting to know the refuge we were assigned to, the habitats and landscapes that compose it, and its inhabitants both yearlong and migrant.

 Having both an on the ground perspective coupled with the textbook knowledge has allowed me to become familiar with and appreciate the habitats and species Santee NWR was established for and protects. Reading and seeing the refuge, its habitats and species is one thing, reading and seeing the effects of climate on the refuge is another and that’s where climate tools and historical data has been most helpful. All of this was wrapped up in the first of four steps with an in person meeting at the beginning of May. 

Having an in-person meeting, at Big Oaks NWR in Indiana, of the Climate Corps fellows and supervisors was a perfect way to transition from one phase to the next. While together we were able to compare what we’ve learned about our individual refuges and learn from the numerous presenters and guest speakers. With the first step of this project, acquainting ourselves with our wildlife refuge complete, we began to focus on the next part, identifying the most important influences both climatic and non-climatic to each refuge. This will help us assess the risks that each refuge could face in the context of climate change.  We aim to build our assessment of models and climate tools, that we learned to use during our week long conference. The goal is that the assessments we make at this step will inform our work in phase 3 of our project, where we will develop scenarios of possible futures the refuge could encounter and the metrics for monitoring target species representative of the habitats.  After the scenarios and monitoring methods have been determined, applying a R.A.D. or Resist-Accept-Direct perspective on the scenarios to help make a final recommendation will be the final step.  All of this sounds daunting and complicated, and yet working with others like the fellows, experts, refuge managers, and volunteers, tackling such a big obstacle seems possible. Especially with the continuous updates on tools, resources, and data it feels like now more than ever there is a focus on mitigating the effects of climate change, now and in the future. Models like Climate Mapper’s Climate Toolbox ( and NOAA’s Climate-at-a-Glance ( are both free and online for anyone to use, and are the exact same tools we are using in our work to assess the possible effects of climate change. My hope of sharing tools like these is that communities can come together and start considering how they can better prepare themselves as well when it comes to reducing the effects of climate change on infrastructure, health and our wildlife.

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: Civilian Climate Corps Program (CCC)

Location: Santee NWR

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