Dave Maxwell
Barbara Michel, the new Visitor Services Coordinator at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge.

A young lady from Minnesota and former Peace Corps worker is the new Visitor Services Coordinator at the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge near Alamo.

Barbara Michel (pronounced Mitchell) is from New Prague, Minnesota, a town of about 7,500, about 45 miles south of Minneapolis. “My parents have a corn and soybean farm there,” she said.

She did her undergraduate work in biology and Life Science Education at Minnesota State University in Moorhead, just across the river from Fargo, North Dakota, and later earned took her Masters in Biological Sciences at Michigan Tech in Houghton, Michigan.

Michel said she taught English in Korea for a year, taught in Minneapolis for two years, and served a stint with the Peace Corps in Senegal, west Africa, before joining the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Pahranagat Refuge is her first assignment.

“It seemed like a really great opportunity, coming here,” she said. “It’s a small enough refuge that I would get the chance to use a lot of different skills, which you don’t usually find at bigger places. In a bigger place, you kind of get pigeon holed, just doing one specific task. I thought here would be a good opportunity to do a lot of different things.”

After arriving in early March, and meeting the people and the local volunteers, she said she feels very pleased. “I think I’m going to learn a lot here.”

Her tasks will involve overseeing the volunteers who staff the campground and visitors center. “It’s my job to recruit, interview and hire the volunteers, and then make sure that everything is running smoothly with them. I am also planning school group outreach and field trips as well as large group events. It will be my aim to engage the local community a bit more than has been. The Alamo schools can come here all the time on field trips, if so desired.” For example, she noted the high school could do some biology projects there, “so many animals here they could observe. The younger kids could have field trips here. And there are a lot of possibilities for community outreach events we could do.” World Migratory Bird Day (May 10) is one such idea. As one of the few wetland habitats in southern Nevada, the refuge is a critical part of the Pacific migration flyway.

She added, “I want to make sure the refuge is a place the local community does feel ownership of. I want them to feel this is “their” place. We don’t know what possible further budget cuts in the federal government might be, and we might need more local support at some point in the unforeseen future, so building those connections would be very valuable.”

An upcoming event at the refuge is the annual Carp Rodeo Saturday, April 29 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.