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Lander Region Interns make big contributions to wildlife

June 26, 2020
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The partnership between the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Water for Wildlife Foundation goes beyond habitat improvements and water projects. Over the last six years, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Water for Wildlife Foundation have partnered to provide 14 internship opportunities to college students majoring in wildlife/fisheries biology and management or other closely related fields. This internship has proven to be very beneficial to the interns, Game and Fish, and Water for Wildlife.  In fact, because of the program’s success, it was expanded in 2019  to three intern positions, with two hired during the summer and the third in the fall.  

The interns get to experience a variety of work and interact with several different individuals while participating in the program. They spend approximately half of their time with Water for Wildlife and the other half with Game and Fish.  Their work with Game and Fish differs from year to year depending on the projects the department is working on and can entail anything from answering calls and selling licenses at the front counter to assisting with habitat project monitoring and implementation.  Projects also range from fish sampling in the backcountry or by boat on local reservoirs to assisting with big game classifications and big game collaring studies. Additionally, interns have the opportunity to work with our large carnivore personnel on human/livestock conflict situations and processing animals trapped for conflict or research projects. 

While working with Water for Wildlife, interns experience how non-governmental organizations operate and how the work they do ties in with on-the-ground management of wildlife and wildlife habitat. These opportunities have entailed the organization of hundreds of past water projects into a comprehensive database as well as making all of this information available online and available to the general public. Interns have also had the opportunity to work on fundraising, education, and creating museum displays. Having the opportunity to work with both entities has given the interns the opportunity to see how governmental and non-governmental organizations can work together to complete a wide range of projects that neither could accomplish on their own.  

The internships have become very popular over the past several years and we now have over 50 very qualified applicants each year for the three positions. These individuals are hardworking, dedicated to the resource, and ready to learn. Many past interns have gone on to find work in their field and the Game and Fish has hired multiple interns into other seasonal or full-time positions.  It's pretty clear that the future of wildlife conservation is in good hands. 

Intern Jacob Stoinski, Game and Fish employees Jason Hunter and Shawonda Fontaine, members of the Rawlins BLM Field Office and other volunteers coordinated by the interns. A total of four guzzlers were installed on the same day in very rough terrain. The interns coordinated the entire project, including wrangling dozens of volunteers, while working with Game and Fish, BLM, Water For WIldlife and Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation. 

See a few of the Intern Profiles below:
This summer we are lucky to have Cassidy Downing and Brandon Sagraves.  Brandon is a current Junior at Texas Tech University studying Wildlife Biology. He will be graduating in the fall of 2022 and will be pursuing a masters degree upon graduation. Brandon’s primary interest is working with carnivores.  He’s excited to broaden his knowledge to help create a better understanding of wildlife management. Cassidy is a current senior in the Ecology program at Northern Michigan University where she has fallen in love with all things creepy, crawly, furry, and green. Her undergraduate project currently has a heavy focus on mustelid parasite ecology, but her long-term goals lie more closely with forest ecology, microbiome research, large mammals, and community outreach/project management.  Both have been a good fit so far and have been a huge help with several projects in the field.

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2019 Intern Sarah Dugan was hired this past spring as a Wyoming Game Warden. According to Sarah, “The internship Water for Wildlife and Game and Fish put on is absolutely an unparalleled learning opportunity I was privileged to have had in 2019. Not only did I get to participate with a non-profit organization that was solely dedicated to wildlife, but I got to work with a variety of biologists whose careers are dedicated to wildlife. Throughout my time in Lander, I found myself soaking in as much knowledge as possible because each day there was a new opportunity to learn. From electrofishing to organizing water projects for wildlife, to collecting vitals on a grizzly bear, there was always something compelling to learn. This internship solidified that I wanted to work with wildlife, and be an advocate for this natural resource we have in Wyoming.”

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2017 Intern Joanna Harter was hired as an aquatic habitat biologist by Game and Fish in 2018 and she said,  
“As an intern in 2017, I had the opportunity to both apply the skills I had acquired in college to my work at Water For Wildlife and to learn about the variety of work that Wyoming Game and Fish does. The flexibility and opportunistic aspect of the work with Game and Fish allowed me to choose to help with work I was most interested in and led me to learn more about the aquatic habitat biologist position, which I was later hired to fill the following year.” 

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2017/18 Intern Jacob Stoinski was also hired as a Wyoming Game and Fish Damage Technician in 2019 and recently hired as a game warden in Nebraska. According to Jacob, “The Water for Wildlife Internship was one of the most unique and valuable learning experiences I had in preparation for a career in conservation. This internship gave me a fundamental understanding of how both state and non-profit conservation agencies are run and organized. More importantly, the internship showed me how agencies like the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, the Water For Wildlife Foundation, and other natural resource agencies work together to conserve wildlife. The internship gave me insight into wildlife conservation careers, the diversity of those careers, and what type of career I wanted to pursue. One of the most enjoyable parts of this intern program was working with diverse people with such different backgrounds. The internship has positively influenced my life and shaped the future of my career. I am thankful for the opportunity to have gained and learned so much, from so many people, in two short summers!”


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