Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge
Posted December 2009
"National Geographic days" are a perk of the job for Andrea VanBeusichem '94. VanBeusichem is the visitor services manager of the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge located in Seneca Falls, N.Y., about 35 miles west of Syracuse.
"I remember the first time I saw 10 eagles in one day and I thought, 'That's like a National Geographic day,'" VanBeusichem said. "Just to be in a place where you can have that sort of opportunity and get paid for it is a wonderful thing."
Montezuma provides more than 7,000 acres of resting, feeding, and nesting habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds. It is situated in the middle of one of the most active flight lanes in the Atlantic Flyway, and is operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
As visitor services manager, VanBeusichem's responsibilities focus on increasing the refuge's visibility. The refuge hosts approximately 150,000 visitors a year for birding and other wildlife observation, hunting and fishing, and special events. It's up to VanBeusichem to advertise these wildlife programs through the media, oversee the organization's volunteer program, and educate the public.
"The most challenging aspect is keeping the public informed of what's happening at Montezuma," she said. The refuge does active biological management, which, at times, impacts birding, but the work will improve the facility when it is complete. "I help people understand what we're doing, how we're doing it and what the outcome will be," she said.
The education she received at ESF provided valuable skill sets, said VanBeusichem. "I got a great background in wildlife management and in ecology so I can understand what we do at Montezuma or whatever natural area I might work at."
The second set of skills came from outside the classroom. "I learned public relations skills that came from the social side of being at ESF and working at the library. So I did a lot of interaction with people."
VanBeusichem came to ESF in 1990 and earned her undergraduate degree in Environmental and Forest Biology.
"ESF was everything I wanted," she said. "A small school where you could have more personal experiences, a school that was specialized in what I really wanted to do and also had the benefit of having a bigger university atmosphere."
While at ESF, VanBeusichem worked at the College's Huntington Wildlife Forest in Newcomb, N.Y. supervising the wildlife crew. "For a girl who grew up in the suburbs, getting out there and living in the mountains and trapping and doing loon surveys was a phenomenal experience and the best job I've had."
While a student at ESF, VanBeusichem planned to be a wildlife biologist, but over the course of her studies she was exposed to public youth education opportunities. Following her years at ESF, VanBeusichem earned her master's degree from the University of Idaho in natural resources communication.
"My bachelor's degree and my master's degree were a perfect combination for what I'm doing now - working with the public in the natural resources realm," she said.