Refuge welcomes visitor services intern
Jessica Barry recently joined the team at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge as a visitor services intern working full-time with Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland.
A Fort Myers native, Barry has been visiting the refuge since an early age.
“I remember visiting the Visitor & Education Center and Wildlife Drive as a child and falling in love with Sanibel’s natural beauty every time,” she said.
Barry graduated from Florida State University in December 2018 with a major in psychology and a minor in children’s developmental disabilities. She worked for four years as a teacher at FSU’s Childcare Center and more recently as an academic and physical coach for children with disabilities, primarily those on the autism spectrum, at the Brain Balance Achievement Center in Naples.
“So far, my favorite thing about the refuge is the staff,” Barry said. “Everyone is so high-energy and passionate about the positive impact they’re making — quite a motivating atmosphere. I cannot wait to dive into this position.”
She added that she is looking forward to helping with “Ding” Darling Day, which will take place at the refuge on Dec. 1 as part of its 75th Anniversary Celebration.
The “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge provides living stipends and other benefits for about a dozen interns each year. The refuge supports interns with free housing.
“We welcome our new interns’ energy and enthusiasm,” Westland said. “We thank our friends group for making their internships possible. With our shrinking staff, due to federal budget cuts, this sort of partnership is crucial to keep the refuge running.”
For more information about the internships, contact Westland at 239-472-1100 ext. 237. To learn about supporting the program, contact DDWS Executive Director Birgie Miller at 239-472-1100 ext. 4.