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New faces at the refuge

February 15, 2013
Special to the Reporter ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

In past months, two new biology interns and 10 seasonal resident volunteers have joined the team effort at J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Cassie Cook and Sheena Wheeler arrived on Jan. 7, and will stay through June. Cook graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor's degree in ecology and evolutionary biology.

"I really like the staff and all the volunteers that I have met so far, and look forward to the wide variety of biological work that will begin next month," Cook says.

Article Photos

New interns Sheena Wheeler and Cassie Cook.

Wheeler, an Oregon State University graduate, majored in fisheries and wildlife science with a specialty in wildlife biology.

"I really enjoy the diverse number of tasks we get to perform ranging from bird surveys to alligator surveys and frog call surveys," said Wheeler. "The internship is expanding my skills and knowledge of the local flora and fauna. Sanibel is such a beautiful area - so different from Oregon."

The "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge supports the refuge intern program.

"It not only fulfills our mission to educate a new generation of wildlife stewards, but provides valuable manpower to assist the refuge's overworked staff," said DDWS executive director Birgie Vertesch.

As part of the resident volunteer program, where workers volunteer their services in exchange for a place to set up their RVs, five couples from across the country will be lending their services through the winter season. They include Patsy and Bob Dicken, Charlie and Lynda Dunham, Alan and Linda Parker, Patty and Jack Wettstein, and Judy and "Woody" Woods.

"We count heavily on the support of our resident volunteers during the busiest time of the year for the refuge," said ranger Jeff Combs, who coordinates the volunteer program. "They are a great solution to budget cuts we've been experiencing."

To support DDWS and the refuge with a tax-deductible gift, visit or contact Vertesch at 239-292-0566 or



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