Stories brought to you to inspire discussion and peer-to-peer helping hands.
Kristen Gilbert
Around the water cooler: Getting to know Kristen Gilbert
Juliette Fernandez

From field stations to headquarters and from social scientists to stakeholders, the human dimensions of natural resources play a major role in conservation! We all have different attitudes, beliefs, and values stemming from our personal backgrounds, interests and experiences. One of the best ways to bridge gaps, understand our audiences and grow as a conservation agency is to take a moment to get to know each other!


Conversations in HD Blog features a fun interview with a Service employee to help get to know each other better. We encourage you to venture out into your community, grab a cup of coffee and do the same!


Meet Kristen Gilbert!

Kristen has spent her 15 year career with the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS).  She now lives in Anchorage Alaska with partner Paulo, and they enjoy biking in all four seasons. Her career passion is bringing innovation to the USFWS. Her tinkering includes: Volunteer Tracker a new App coming Spring 2016, using google app scripts to create new processes for grant processing and data calls, internal websites on  Volunteers and  Youth, and a NWRS Comm Strategy that aims to engage new audiences with new tools.


Why did you choose this career?

For some odd reason, I was really drawn to environmental issues in high school, odd because I grew up in a very conservative rural Utah county.  My senior year, I saw a job announcement in the newspaper for Youth Conservation Corps at my neighborhood wildlife refuge, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. I applied that day.  For three summers I pulled out more fence than I can imagine, got multiple 4 wheelers stuck, retrieved thousands of dead botulism ducks, learned how to drive an air boat, back a trailer, and supervise  teenagers.   With some great mentors like Vickie Roy (now Hirschboeck), Joe Saenz, and Al Trout, I discovered the National Wildlife Refuge System and never looked back. 


What are people surprised to learn about your area of expertise?

People, especially coworkers, are surprised to learn visitor services and communications is an area of expertise, a hugely important mission critical one at that.  I think there is a cultural bias in our organization that anybody can effectively communicate with school children, visitors, and even Congress.  This is not the case.  It takes a broad area of study in a variety of fields from educational methods to marketing.  It’s even more challenging in today’s fast paced digital environment.


What is your favorite part of working with people to further conservation?

People are conservation.   We can do direct conservation of the wildlife all we want, but if we don’t focus on changing the behaviors and minds of the people there won’t be any wildlife left to conserve.  My favorite part of working with people, is sparking that interest and passion for nature whether they be a child or a senior.   


Mountains or prairie? Why?

MOUNTAINS!  I grew up in them, and I will never leave.  They have become a huge part of my cultural identity, whether they be in northern Utah, southern Colorado, western Wyoming, or south central Alaska. I need to look up and see them to calibrate my internal compass, and just catching a glimpse of them on my horizon relaxes me.  


Do you have pets? How did they get their names?

Wren and Stumpy traipsed into my life 12 years ago, while I was stationed at the San Luis Valley National Wildlife Refuges (Alamosa/MonteVista/Baca).  It was a regular occurrence to see and pick up stray or abandoned dogs on the refuge in that part of Colorado.  This particular pair was spotted roaming the refuge subsisting on mice, rabbits and whatever they could find.  For nearly a month they evaded capture.  We finally coaxed in with some cat food, and it was love at first sight. They were an unlikely pair, a beautiful American breed yellow lab and a blue healer/beagle like mutt that at first glance looked like a puppy.  Being the GenX/MTVer/bird nerd they got the names Wren and Stumpy.   With Stumpy’s Napoleon complex and affinity for chasing fast cars, he perished within a few months of living on a remote county road where most cars sped by at 60 mph, he couldn’t help himself.  Wren followed me all the way to Alaska, where he just recently just died at the old lab age of 15+. In his honor, we named his favorite biking  trail Wren’s Wrun. 


Do you prefer team building with hugs or a with a 10 foot pole?

Ten foot pole for sure.  Not a touchy feely person, in fact I spontaneously cry if forced to express my emotions.  Something about a Johari window that I learned in SUTL, it made sense at the time. This tendency makes me a product person versus a process person.  I need to see results and a 10 foot pole gets your to point B faster and more effectively than hugging it out.


Juliette Fernandez's picture
About the Author
Juliette Fernandez
Juliette is the Refuge Supervisor for Arizona and New Mexico. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in Wildlife Science and a minor in Creative Writing. She began her career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the biologist at Imperial National Wildlife Refuge before entering management as the Assistant Manager at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. In her current position in the Southwest Regional Office, Juliette continues to support positive change in conservation by fostering sound, useful science; building employee relations and developing meaningful investment in the Service's vision with others.