Hi, I’m Annika Benedetti. My first few months in Albuquerque have really flown by. I am pretty much settled into the rhythm of working at the USFWS and my project workload. I have nearly finished creating and running my deep learning models and detecting abandoned wells in Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. I am currently working in Texas’s Trinity River, Anahuac, Texas Point, and McFaddin Refuges and starting on an all encompassing web to display my project results to share with refuge managers. The FWS Office is still pretty quiet in terms of people physically being in the building, but that might change soon as people become more comfortable in working in person. I am interested in connecting with more FWS professionals and learning more about different job opportunities in the FWS and the work they are doing to conserve and improve our natural resources. On the off work side of things I have been exploring more around Albuquerque, visiting historic Central Avenue along Route 66, and walking along the Rio Grande.
The Rio is one of the most important rivers in western North America, providing water to around 6 million people and 2 million acres of irrigated land plus the natural tributaries and habitats (About the Rio Grande ) Given that the Rio Grande runs through several states and the border between Mexico and is so crucial to this region, managing water intake from the Rio is one of the most crucial parts of running a wildlife refuge in arid New Mexico as I found out when I got to visit Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.
After a long time in a quiet office, we managed to get some fresh air and see some beautiful scenery and spot some wildlife. Bosque covers around 30,000 acres of wetlands, fields, and desert all fed by the RIo Grande, and with water gates and drainage systems it is able to have water in wetlands year-long (Bosque del Apache). However, as the FWS hydrologists that took us to Bosque explained, each refuge has an unique water right, a set flow rate that they need to follow as they shift water to different sections of the refuge to mimic natural seasons. If a refuge exceeds the water levels that it is taking from the Rio Grande, it actually has to return the excess and offset the flow rate which could be damaging to the wetlands especially in warmer seasons. We assisted them with checking the drainage system and water monitoring equipment to make sure the flow rate and water of the wetlands were at the proper levels. These wetlands are a critical stopping point for migrating birds and home to countless species like the endangered meadow jumping mouse. Wetlands also improve human life through natural water purification and provide flood protection (Wetlands). Whether it’s in the field or in the office, I’m excited to be working to help with refuge conservation.
Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Program: Civilian Climate Corps Program (CCC)
Location: Southwest Regional Office