Working for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

Working for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

As an avid outdoor enthusiast, Damon Taylor has always known that he wanted to have a career in “something outdoors.” Researching degrees in high school opened up the option for him to do just that and he graduated in 2010 with a Bachelors in Science in Natural Resource Ecology and Management with an emphasis in Wildlife Ecology. He has not only enjoyed his time in his career, but has also achieved his goal position working as the Deputy Refuge Manager for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services in Oklahoma.

“I found [fish and wildlife jobs] through research … I knew for a long time that it was something that I wanted to do,” Damon explains.

Post graduation, Damon didn’t really know what was going to happen next. He had proactively spent time in college gaining experience and building his fish and wildlife networking list through a variety of internships in the different agencies even including the Forest Service. 

A Mindset for Success

Limited job openings are a significant obstacle for those interested in pursuing a career in either a state, regional or federal-level of the Fish & Wildlife agency. Damon felt that he was able to find success on a variety of levels within the agency, ultimately ending up back in his home state at the refuge he originally wanted to work at, was by changing his mindset. 

  • Do not have tunnel vision.
    Know what you want to do in your ecology or biology career but do not limit your internships, experiences or network by only taking specifically those internships.

  • Do not be afraid to go somewhere new.
    While in college and immediately after graduation, Damon found himself packing up his fifth-wheel camper that he was living in to head to remote and varied locations in the continental U.S. to work for a different government agencies. In the long run, this helped him build his network, his resume, and his experience. 

  • Put yourself out there.
    When you put yourself out there, the universe has a funny way of combing back around to give you exactly what you want. Damon wasn’t afraid to try new things or apply for different jobs outside of his comfort zone and found himself coming full circle almost eight years later to the refuge in his home state he had wanted to work at. 

Pros & Cons of a Career at a Refuge

Pros:

  • Some stations will have housing opportunities, depending on the position and location.

  • Benefits are fantastic. 

  • Work is predominantly outside and hands on. 

  • Community outreach and helping the public enjoy the refuge. 

  • Help endangered species of plants and animals survive and thrive. 

Cons:

  • Pay isn’t as high as some jobs, but when compared with the benefits it is definitely worth factoring them against each other. 

  • Paperwork and budgets are mandatory office duties. 

  • Jobs can be seasonal or temporary which can result in multiple new locations throughout your career. 

  • Keeping multiple groups happy that use the refuge from hunters to fishers, hikers to photographers, to school outreach and more. 

Measuring Career Success:

“When things are getting done,” says Damon, “there are a lot of tasks on our plate and some of them can fall through the cracks.” 

Managing tasks, ideas, and programs is the ultimate success to Damon’s position on the refuge. Ensuring a strong outreach program for youth events like fishing clinics or hunter participation, as well as keeping access available for those wanting to hike, take photographs or bird watch are also important. 

Is A Career With Fish & Wildlife Services Right For You?

If you are the kind of person who enjoys diversity, being outdoors and an ever-changing dynamic and exciting work environment, then a career with Fish & Wildlife Services could be for you! If you require a structured, consistent day-to-day or week-to-week schedule, than this may not be the best fit for you. 

From dreaming of his perfect job in high school to working in it day-to-day, Damon says that the biggest difference he didn’t see is that there is a lot more office work as he has now been moved into a supervisor position. While he still gets out a lot, he his thankful for a great staff that helps to minimize the stress and the work that he has to do. He is excited to enjoy where he is at right now in his career before making his next big career goals. You can follow along with those on his Facebook or send any questions you may have to him at his email, damon_taylor@fws.gov

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Katie Schrock
katie.schrock@thatwesternlife.com
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