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Refuge adds MacNeil, Delater as interns

By Staff | Jul 27, 2011

Jen Delater started work as a refuge intern in mid-July.

While most visitors to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge may be on the lookout for roseate spoonbills, great blue herons or alligators, two of the newest inhabitants of the nature preserve are of the human species.

Thanks to the assistance of the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS), Maggie MacNeil and Jen Delater joined the refuge team as interns earlier this month.

MacNeil, a native of Geneva, New York, recently graduated from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. with a master’s degree in Biology. She did her undergraduate studies at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa.

“I couldn’t believe how many species of birds they have here,” said MacNeil, who first learned about the “Ding” Darling NWR internship online. “I think this will be a wonderful opportunity for me to study a lot of different species — like songbirds, shorebirds and pelicans — that I’ve never seen before.”

As a biology intern, MacNeil has been busy doing wildlife surveys and water and invasive species monitoring. She would like to find a full-time or permanent position in the future with either the U.S. government or non-profit organization.

Maggie MacNeil

A graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems, Delater clocked in as a refuge visitor services intern to assist Ranger Jeff Combs with Education Center front desk duties, volunteer program management, and other responsibilities.

“I’ve studied computers, but I’ve always liked being outside,” said Delater, who grew up in Stuart, Fla. “I’ve always been passionate about the environment, so if I could find a job that would combine computers and the environment, that would be ideal.”

In the two weeks that both interns have been on Sanibel, each have experienced a few memorable moments. While MacNeil shared that some of her roommates saw the black bear discovered on the refuge on Monday night, Delater offered a humorous story about a dead scorpion that somebody brought in to the Education Center.

“Somehow, the scorpion wound up at the center of the lunchroom table,” she noted with a laugh. “There’s never a dull moment!”

DDWS provided $35,000 for intern living-expense stipends for the refuge in the 2010-11 fiscal year. Their budget provides seven or more biology, education and visitor services interns annually.

“The Wildlife Society’s intern program fills in the gaps left by federal budget cuts and at the same time strengthens these young interns’ dedication to the environment,” said Refuge Manager Paul Tritaik. “It’s a win-win situation, and we are forever grateful for the Society’s support.”

As a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, DDWS works to support the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s mission of conservation, wildlife and habitat protection, research and public education through charitable donations and Refuge Nature Shop proceeds.

To support DDWS and the refuge with a tax-deductible gift, visit www.dingdarlingsociety.org or contact Birgie Vertesch by calling 239-292-0566, 239-472-1100 ext. 4, or send an e-mail to director@dingdarlingsociety.org.