Written By ACE'r

On June 14, 2021
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The EPIC-FWS Division strives to become a bridge between academia and career by assessing the educational and experiential backgrounds of potential members and/or fellows in an effort to connect them with rewarding careers as the next generation of natural resource stewards or to simply foster an enhanced sense of respect for natural resources and the entities responsible for their management. The EPIC FWS Alumni listed below served with ACE EPIC and went on to full time positions with the Federal Government. Continue reading below to learn about their successful journeys!


Amber Furness

After serving as a Corps member for 16 months, I earned a permanent position as a Realty Specialist (Series 1170) at the GS-11 level in the same office. My responsibilities are essentially the same; however, my role as a leader in regional realty records management is even more evident as I am called upon to facilitate a higher number of initiatives in this area, especially as I continue to serve as a member of national policy team. On the acquisition side, I am currently managing two projects, a nearly 4,000-acre conservation easement and an 840-acre parcel to be added to a refuge. I also manage a couple rights-of-way projects on refuge land and an administrative site.

My ACE position allowed me to learn the roles and responsibilities of a Realty Specialist, including how to acquire real property interests, process rights-of-ways, respond to internal and external inquiries, and perform records management duties. Through months of on-the-job learning and mentoring, I became a national and regional subject matter expert and leader of realty records management and a Realty Specialist who can confidently and independently take a land acquisition from the negotiation stage to closing.  

By serving in this position, I gained the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to compete at the “Best Qualified” level in the application process. I already had that “foot in the door” that is often spoken of. I wanted this ACE position so badly. In the beginning, I wasn’t always certain I wanted to become a permanent Realty Specialist, but after understanding the position by doing it, knew it was what I wanted and truly love my job.

Meredith Stroud

While studying Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences at Texas A&M University, I grew an interest in Attwater’s prairie-chickens after hearing about them through one of my professors. During school, I tried looking for an internship at the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge that I could squeeze into the summer, but all of the internships offered were 6-months or a year long. So I decided that once I got my bachelor’s degree, I would apply. After I graduated in 2017, that’s just what I did. I started at the Refuge about a month after Hurricane Harvey as an invasive intern through American Conservation Experience.

I spent most of my time out in the field removing woody brush that did not belong and chemically treating invasive plant species. I also got to assist the biology team with other duties, like wildlife and vegetation surveys and prairie-chicken releases. When that one-year internship was approaching its end, the biologists offered me another internship to track prairie chickens. So for another year, I spent most of my time using radio telemetry to keep track of our prairie-chicken population. When our Wildlife Refuge Specialist was leaving to work at another refuge, it was perfect timing that my internship was coming to an end the following season, so I nervously applied for the newly vacant position.

With two years of experience at Attwater, good relationships with the staff, and the grace of God, I was blessed with my first permanent position with USFWS. This amazing opportunity actually opened up a pathway into Refuge Management that I had not previously considered. I knew I wanted to work in wildlife conservation, but I’m thankful this series of experiences has led me this direction. I truly appreciate all the wonderful staff here for teaching me, growing my confidence, and building me up. And I am so grateful to ACE for having these opportunities available. Without the experience I gained from those two internships and the Public Lands Hiring Authority they gave, I would not be happily working where I am today

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