Melissa Rae Lesh
CDIP Intern, Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, Baring, Maine
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
How Melissa Rae Lesh got involved with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
I was out on the search, looking for a way to spend my summer outdoors working to benefit wildlife conservation. It was at my college SOVO fair (Student Organization and Volunteer Opportunities), when an enticing flier caught my eye. It read, “Paid Internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Student Conservation Association (SCA)”. Already familiar with the SCA and delighted at the sound of an internship concerning wildlife, I applied for the offered biological intern position as fast as you can say “moose”. It was only soon after that I realized a few follow up emails and phone call interviews were key to being selected for the position at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge. This is where I would spend my summer with the biologists in northern Maine, gathering research data and working on wildlife habitat restoration.
A series of incidents that will forever remain in my mind occurred at 4:12 a.m. every morning for the first two weeks on the refuge. Before the light of the sun cast over the canopy, I was to ascend the inch thin, yet surprisingly strong branches of a waterside white spruce. A minuscule platform awaited me at thirty feet in the foliage, where I sat perched for two hours, observing all freshly stirring fauna. The magic unfolded the moment the sun cusped over the horizon. With the stage lit, the divine spectacle was in clear view as belted kingfishers dipped for a first catch, black duck broods dove bottom up, and diligent beavers glided to their extensive construction sights. At a time when my dreams would have otherwise taken place, witnessing nature’s vivacious activity opened my tired eyes and brought me to a state of serenity and bliss. I had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working with wildlife. Many of my days were spent trapping, banding and recording data from American Woodcock on the refuge. Incidentally I was also able to pursue my love for the arts through the many opportunities I had to capture wildlife on film.
Melissa Rae Lesh's accomplishments
My internship at Moosehorn was far beyond merely a job. It gave me the satisfaction of physical as well as intellectual accomplishments. We completed a great deal of physical endeavors such as clearing beaver created blocked waterways, pulling invasive species, charting trails with GIS points, surveying fish passages, banding woodcock and waterfowl, and much more, but there was a great deal of intangible accomplishments as well. The knowledge that I gained on the refuge, the expansion that took place and the tranquility that I discovered were all personal accomplishments far beyond that which could be documented. I left with a strong feeling of connection to the people, the place and the work in which I was involved. I felt passionate about the work I did, which spurred me to start a project on educating and engaging the local community in habitat restoration. Using a mixture of native wildflower seeds and compost bound up in small balls of red clay, I created over 600 "seed-bombs" to be dispersed for visitors on the refuge, as well as at local festivals. This project was designed to help revitalize local habitats damaged by human development and the intrusion of invasive plant species.
Melissa Rae Lesh's next steps
Given a glimpse of how critical wildlife rehabilitation and habitat conservation is, my future goals and choice of work became clear. I now hope to complete the necessary steps through education and hands-on experience that I will need in order to become part of the large-scale effort in not only improving the current state of our planet, but spreading awareness to all of those with open ears.
Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin
School: Virginia Commonwealth University
Major: Environmental Science and Painting & Printmaking