Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Year of Twenty at Guam National Wildlife Refuge

Campers chatting about the refuge & species before exploring!
Credit: USFWS
"Find a refuge near you." This is the go-to slogan that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service promotes when encouraging you to get outdoors. Anytime you have or will see this message, you probably picture our refuges somewhere in between the ocean-bound borders of California and New England. Our Pacific Region, however, also includes the small tropical island of Guam, just south of The Philippines. This year, Guam National Wildlife Refuge celebrated its 20th birthday. As part of the celebration, the refuge planned a number of major education and outreach events to showcase both the refuge and the conservation efforts put forth there every day! The Pacific Region Connecting People with Nature Team aided these projects with funding to support the leadership of one refuge intern, Jeried. To name just a few, these projects included the establishment of a Friends Group, development of an educational presentation on the endangered Marianas fruit bat, and refuge photography contest.

One of the Camp Shutterbug photo contest winners
Credit: USFWS
Partnering with the community
To begin, Friends Groups are an important way for refuges to help build connections with the local community, and to establish means through which students and other local groups can visit and learn about the refuge. Throughout the year, the initial steps in setting up a Friends of Guam NWR were an ongoing process. Working with the Ayuda Foundation, plans for a brand new Friends Group focused on education and outreach are well under way. The refuge hopes to have an official group by the summer of 2014.

Camp Shutterbug & refuge volunteers explore the nature of the refuge
Credit: USFWS
Educating neighbors
The next project on Jeried's list was to help develop presentations focused on the endangered and invasive species of Guam. Focusing on the endangered Mariana fruit bat – Jeried created two presentations, one for teenagers, and one for students ages 5-12. The presentations showcased how to identify the bats, causes of their decline, and the work being done to help conserve this local species. The presentations have since been making there way around Guam, including an appearance at University of Guam's Charter Day where hundreds of visitors were able to learn about and even see a fruit bat.

One of the photo contest winners
Credit: USFWS
Putting screens to good use
Finally, Jeried led Camp Shutterbug 2013, "preserving my island," a mini-camp held at the refuge for children ages 8-15. This two-part camp first brought children through educational tours of the refuge to learn about local species and one of their major threats – the Brown Treesnake. Part two focused on allowing the campers to get creative and capture photographs from around the refuge to later enter into a photo contest. After participating in a photography workshop with refuge volunteer, Louis Santos, the children embarked on a photo journey through the refuge snapping shots of all of the new plants and species they learned about throughout camp. The photographs were later displayed in the courtyard of a local shopping center, not only showing off the campers' work but bringing additional awareness to the public about all of the wonderful pieces of nature at Guam NWR! Over the course of the year, a 20th birthday celebration saw these successful projects and endless conservation efforts put forth by refuge employees, volunteers and community members. Now that you know a little bit more about Guam NWR – we predict you might be thinking a bit more tropical next time you click our "find a refuge near you!"

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