Senior wildlife science major Jarrett Wansley of Richmond, Va., was selected for a competitive STEP (Student Temporary Employment Program) position with the Appalachian Mountain Joint Venture, housed in the college’s Conservation Management Institute (CMI). Wansley’s position, which includes working on a variety of bird habitat conservation projects with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, could eventually lead to a job with the federal government. “There is a lot of competition out there for employment, so I feel a sense of security knowing that by this time next year I could have a full-time job, doing work that I absolutely love,” he said.

Wansley will travel up and down the East Coast throughout the summer, where his responsibilities will range from performing vegetation sampling and bird-point counts to removing invasive plants at project sites. “This federal program is basically a paid internship, and it provides opportunities for students to receive some great experience in a field that is their professional interest,” said Todd Fearer, science coordinator for the Appalachian Mountain Joint Venture.

Wansley will also work with CMI on select projects to enhance his experience and bolster his knowledge. “The STEP program is a great opportunity for minority students to get an early career start with the Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Scott Klopfer, CMI executive director. “Our hope is that this will not only go well for Jarrett, but that it will open up similar opportunities for Virginia Tech students in the future.”

The position could also lead Wansley to the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP), which would give him support through graduate school and help him transition into a career with the government. “This is a tremendous opportunity to launch a career,” Klopfer said.

Wansley gives credit to Professor Carola Haas for encouraging him to apply for the program. “She has been a great influence on me, always giving me advice and passing along information and applications for programs,” Wansley added.