Minding Your MANRRS: Fieldwork Fun for Everyone

By Hallie Morris, summer intern with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Bloggers Note: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a unique relationship with Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) chapters at universities throughout the country. In Region 1, we have an internship program where members of MANRRS chapters work closely with Service programs and learn valuable skills to prepare them for future employment with the Service. The internship program is also designed to be a fun, summer experience, while allowing interns to have a variety of experiences to expose them to all aspects of the Service. It is a mutually beneficial program for our Region where interns have a great summer of learning and Service employees gain additional capacity and practice reverse mentoring to learn from college student interns.

Fun times at Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge! Hallie and her fellow interns are seen in these pictures working hard and having fun! Purple loosestrife is pictured in the top right. USFWS photos.

It has been an adventurous summer! My internship with the Pacific Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has introduced me to some incredible people, places, and programs. One of the coolest groups I got to know was the Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) internship program. This week, seven interns met up to collaborate, learn, and, of course, work! We were joined by a few Directorate Fellows Program (DFP) interns, and both of these internships provide students with office, field, and research experience. You can think of MANRRS as a stepping stone to do DFP which provides a pathway to federal employment.

Our adventure took place at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. One of the few urban national wildlife refuges in the nation, Tualatin Refuge is situated on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. The refuge, which is located within the Tualatin River’s floodplain, is home to some of the most numerous and diverse species of animals in the watershed.

The interns and I stayed at a bunkhouse near the refuge and had a great time getting to know each other and sharing stories. Meeting the group of interns, all with similar interests in ecology and the type of work that the Service does, was fun and helped me validate my own conservation career interests. I am really hoping to do unique research after I graduate and pursue a master’s degree or PhD. This summer’s internship has helped me understand the difference between taking an academic career path versus a management route. I would really love to do research that helps managers by understanding how habitat changes can affect the plants and animals they are trying to protect.

The next morning we drove over to the refuge to meet the staff and gear up for the day. After introductions and a short presentation and demonstration on our jobs, we all got to work planting. We planted three species of trees; black hawthorn, western crabapple, and black twinberry. These saplings will grow up and serve as a place for shade, food, help with erosion, and so much more!

Later that day we did some invasive species monitoring, including some habitat closed to the public. Wapato Lake Wildlife Refuge is separate from Tualatin but remains essential to the Tualatin River wildlife complex. The refuge was recently established in 2013 and exists as great habitat for a variety of wildlife, particularly the numerous migrating ducks that stop-over in the winter. It has over 900 acres of continuous protected territory and possesses an intermittent lake not present in the summer. Part of protecting this great habitat includes monitoring for invasive plants, or those that do not belong here. Invasive plants grow aggressively and spread quickly, changing the habitat that our native plants and animals rely on. Tualatin and Wapato do not have many invasive plants because the staff works really hard to find them and remove them as soon as possible. Because of the refuge staff’s hard work, this really is an amazing wildlife oasis.

At Wapato Lake, we learned how to use a mapping app to inventory invasive species. We were specifically looking for purple loosestrife and an invasive species of grass that the refuge needs to monitor. Purple loosestrife is actually quite pretty, but it is a vigorous plant that crowds out marsh vegetation needed by wildlife for food and shelter. Decreased waterfowl and songbird production has been documented in heavily infested marshes, where purple loosestrife has displaced most of the native vegetation. Our work removing the plant at Wapato Lake was an effort to prevent this from happening.

From collaboration to learning new technology to getting our hands dirty: this was a great trip in a beautiful location, nestled in an otherwise urban area. Thanks to the Service and the MANRRS program for the good times and invaluable experience!



Conservation stories from one of the world’s most ecologically diverse regions.

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