A summer outdoors


Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, located between Seymour and Jennings County, is offering summer job opportunities for area teenagers.

The four positions are available through the Youth Conservation Corps for young men and women who are 15 to 18 years of age.

Those hired will earn minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for eight weeks of work focused on wildlife and habitat conservation and improving the refuge for public use.

Muscatatuck covers about 7,800 acres of forests, wetlands and grasslands and is one of more than 550 wildlife refuges across the country.

The first YCC crew at Muscatatuck was hired in 1974 and had five supervisors and 20 high school students, said Daniel Wood, wildlife refuge specialist.

In 1981, the program was virtually eliminated nationwide due to budget reductions and then was revived in 1983 with reduced staffing. Throughout the late ‘80s and into the early ‘90s, only one supervisor and two students were hired each summer.

From 2000 to 2009, the refuge did not employ YCC members, but Wood said in the 30 years they have been used, they have played a major role at helping maintain the park.

“The YCC crews have been critical to achieving the massive work load that summer brings,” he said.

Applicants must be willing to do physical labor in adverse working conditions including heat. The YCC program will begin June 15 and run through Aug. 1. Crew members will work a standard 40-hour workweek of eight-hour days Monday through Friday.

“There is the likelihood of high heat and humidity, as well as the possibility of being exposed to biting insects such as mosquitoes,” Wood said.

Personal protective equipment including steel-toed boots, gloves, eye, hearing and face protection, insect repellent and sunscreen are provided by the refuge.

“The refuge has well-established safety procedures, including job hazard assessments in place to minimize risks to the students,” Wood said.

Projects to be completed over the summer include trail maintenance, habitat restoration and improvement, facility and vehicle maintenance, invasive species control and environmental awareness.

“These youth will have a diverse experience, although their primary role will be to assist in the maintenance program, including labor such as weed eating, cleaning, painting, staining, power washing buildings, vehicles and other refuge infrastructure,” Wood said.

They also will get to assist with some biological work that may include surveying various plant and animal populations, assisting with research and invasive species monitoring and control, he added.

The program also includes an educational component, with roughly 10 to 20 percent of work time spent learning about conservation and wildlife habitat management at both the refuge and other conservation areas in the state.

Besides manual labor, the experience will provide youth with valuable life lessons such as teamwork, work ethic and a broad exposure to philosophies and techniques of conservation and land management, Wood added.

“Hopefully, these students leave with a sense of ownership and pride in their accomplishments as well as a better understanding of stewardship and conservation ethics,” he said. “The skill sets of these students should be expanded greatly by exposure to a wide array of tools and job duties.”

Youth with an interest in the outdoors and conservation work are encouraged to visit the web link, fws.gov/refuge/Muscatatuck/what_we_do/get_involved.html, to download an application.

“The positions can be an excellent bridge into the field of wildlife conservation and biology, maintenance, environmental education and land management,” Wood said. “However, because of the diversity of experience they will receive, it could easily translate into benefits to an even wider variety of fields.”

Applications must be submitted by April 12 and can be mailed or dropped off at the refuge, Muscatatuck NWR, 12985 E. U.S. 50, Seymour, IN 47274.

There are no qualifications or requirements to apply for the jobs and workers will be chosen at random from a drawing. Two girls and two boys will be chosen and an orientation session will be held for students and their parents prior to the first day of work.

Students who are not chosen will become alternates in the event a selected applicant cannot work.

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