Date: August 4, 2014
Place: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, MD
Interview: Chelsea McKinney, Fish and Wildlife Biologist
Wildlife biologists study wild animals and how they interact with their environment. Learn what it takes to be a wildlife biologist and how to protect wild animals.
I absolutely love being outdoors, getting to study new species [group of animals] all the time. Learning about how they affect the ecology [animals and their surroundings] of an environment [where the animals live] is fascinating to me.
Conservation really means protecting wildlife and when I say wildlife, I'm not just referring to animals, but I'm talking about animals, plants and their habitat [where the animals live] so that our future generations can enjoy the wonderful landscapes and scenery that we can today.
What's a refuge?
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge System is actually the largest set of land and water put together specifically for the protection of wildlife, including endangered species [animals at risk of dying out]. We have about 564 as of today, but we're constantly growing.
What have you experienced working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife?
So I had experiences at Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge studying puffins. I later went to Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge in New Hampshire monitoring loon [duck] populations and moose populations.
I had the experience of working at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge studying an endangered species [animals of risk of dying out] which will now be delisted [removed from the endangered species list] soon, called the Delmarva fox squirrel. And they're these big over-sized squirrels that seemed to be getting hit by cars a lot because they're so slow and sluggish. Most squirrels go tree to tree to tree. Well these guys are so slow, that they come down the tree, go on the ground, all the way up the tree, down the tree and again. So but their populations are coming back now.
What do you do with the information you collect?
Everyone that's a wildlife biologist typically does it because the love being outside; they love being outdoors. But when you collect all that data [information collected] and all that information, there's a time when you have to be in the office to kind of analyze [study and examine] everything to see what the trends [a direction of something changing] are, to see what the [animal] populations are doing. And that is very important data and very important things to do.
What can kids do now to protect wildlife?
I would say the most important thing that kids can do to protect wildlife is to be knowledgeable. To share that information with their classmates, to explore the outdoors, whether that be a small patch in their backyard or a bush or at a park or at a national wildlife refuge, like where we're at now, at Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge. To get out and explore, make observations [watch something carefully] or your own and do your own biology in your own backyard.