My summer experience with the fish AND wildlife My summer experience with the fish AND wildlife
28 November 2022

My summer experience with the fish AND wildlife

Written by: Joshua Salwey

Hi, my name is Josh Salwey, and I am a Hispanic Access Foundation intern at Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge in Trempealeau, Wisconsin.

I have been working in Visitor Services here at the Refuge this summer. It has been a great experience working, interacting with the public, and helping with different projects around the Refuge. My favorite aspect of working here is having visitors come in and tell me stories about what they had seen when they visited here and have a conversation about nature and wildlife. The significant part about this internship is that I found out what it truly takes to keep a refuge going with different projects throughout the summer and what it takes to set up events like having school groups visit us. I am from the area and saw Trempealeau all the time as a kid with either my family or for school field trips, and it is a fantastic feeling to work in a place like this when you have spent so much time there as a kid.

Being a part of Visitor Services this summer, I was able to help coordinate lesson plans for school trips from different schools that have visited us this summer. Here I help plan what lessons the students would be learning, the itinerary for the time they spend here, teach them about local wildlife, and try to make it as engaging as it can be for the student so that they can have fun while learning. I was able to run my part of the lesson plans we had for the school groups by doing a fun animal guessing game. Here I would give the characteristics of the animal and see if the kids were able to guess which kind of animal I was describing. After they guessed the animal, I would lay out the animal's pelt, and we would have replica skulls next to them. I would then encourage the kids to come up and feel the different coats we had laid out at the end of the lesson to help better engage them with the lesson. Another part of working Visitor Services here at Trempealeau would be the organization of the volunteer banquet that we are getting ready for in the coming weeks. Here we are celebrating the hard work our volunteers have done in the past year, giving them recognition for their work, and making a fun event for them to enjoy with food, games, and going over all the projects they helped accomplish this past year. I made a volunteer jeopardy game about Fish and Wildlife for this event.

The most fun I had this summer was working on some biology projects that our staff helped set up for me. This summer, I got to do motorboat operation certification, water sampling, tern surveys, bat surveys, and evasive species control here on our Refuge. They gave me the responsibility of water quality sampling, where every two weeks, I would drive across the Refuge and collect water sampling from different sites. Trempealeau started doing water sampling to test the different levels of blue algae appearing throughout the summer/growing season here. I would then ready the samples and ship them off to a lab to see the different levels of toxins in the testing sites. I then moved on to organizing and working with another refuge in Onalaska to work on Black Tern surveys where the goal was to see the total amount of Black Tern in the colony on our Refuge would be. They had moved their territory to our Refuge where it would be. After organizing tree surveys with other Bio techs and volunteers, we could locate the colonies; this year, there were three separate colonies on our Refuge. We also kept track of the eggs' stages and how far along their laying and hatching seasons were.

Overall, I had a great experience here at Trempealeau for this internship this summer. I got to work with some fantastic people and build skills I will use in the future for my professional work. The biggest takeaway from this summer would be to be flexible. This field of work is ever-changing and to be able to change plans on the fly or rethink your strategy when approaching problems is sometimes the best thing to do. I made so many connections with other workers within our region and worked on the networking skills that I can potentially land a job within the Fish and Wildlife Service in the future.

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Location: Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge (La Crosse District/Trempealeau)

MANO Project
is an initiative of Hispanic 
Access Foundation.

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