Dave Maxwell
Jessica Samuelson, new visitors services specialist at both Pahranagat and Moapa National Wildlife Refuges. She is a native of northern Wisconsin.

Jessica Samuelson is the new visitors services specialist at both the Pahranagat and Moapa National Wildlife Refuge. A native of northern Wisconsin, she started in the new position at the end of May, replacing Barbara Michels.

“The refuge is all about animals, wildlife, birds, and habitat,” Samuelson said, “but my job is to bring the people in, people from the community, students, and other visitors. Basically, I help run the Visitor’s Center, keep it open for business, and answer questions when necessary.”

This is not Samuelson’s first time at Pahranagat. She served a three-month internship at Pahranagat and Desert National Refuge Visitor Center in August 2016.

“I shadowed under Tim Parker at that time. Then I was sent to Desert for a few months, where I got to do a lot with the Junior Duck Stamp program. Then in the summer of 2017, I was back here at Pahranagat for three to four months.”

In the fall of 2017, Samuelson got a contracting job in Willows, California, and after a time, applied for the position of visitors specialist that was opening at Pahranagat. “I am familiar with Pahranagat and do really enjoy it here.”

As an independent contractor with the Great Basin Institute of Reno, she says she still has “the same duties as a direct employee would do.”

Raised in Phelps, Wisconsin, a small town about the size of Alamo, “about five miles from the Michigan border,” she says she is a huge Green Bay Packers fan.

She attended Luther College, a private liberal arts school in Decorah, Iowa, majoring in biology and english.

After graduation, she said, “I entered the AmeriCorps, kind of like the Peace Corps, but it’s based only in the U.S. I was stationed for two years at a tribal elementary school in northern Wisconsin, with a local sub-group of the Ojibwa tribe, and later became attached to the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service. I spent a summer working with them. Later, I was given a recommendation through the Chicago Botanical Garden to work with the Bureau of Land Management which sent me out to Needles, California, in 2016. Everybody knows how hot it can be in the summer in Needles. My current record for the time I was there is 137º F.”

She added that while at Needles, “I found out about the Great Basin Institute and took an opportunity to work with them.”

At both Pahranagat and Moapa refuges, Samuelson will be working mostly with special events and school groups. “I plan to periodically do a scorpion hunt, or dragonfly programs, etc., but nothing specifically as yet. Hopefully, though, a couple of things this summer.”