On any given day, a range of issues might cross Wendi Weber’s desk. And by range, this could mean managing the country’s first marine national monument in the Atlantic, leading the multimillion-dollar Delaware River Watershed Program, or partnering to conserve the rich biodiversity of the Appalachian Mountains.
As regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s North Atlantic-Appalachian region, Weber oversees activities on national wildlife refuges and fisheries facilities, and projects benefiting coastal marshes, rivers, forests and mountains. The region has many at-risk species and species listed under the Endangered Species Act, plus some of the most densely populated areas of the country.
This range and diversity is what Weber loves about her job. She’s worked in the public sector for decades, and she relishes the feeling of working with a team and partners toward a larger conservation goal.
“I love what I do. I am inspired and motivated by the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and proud to work with such dedicated employees and partners,” says Weber, who is based in Western Massachusetts. “The people of the Service are amazing—they’re incredibly dedicated and talented people. I am proud to be a civil servant and enjoy working with diverse interests to find a common outcome.”
Weber herself became interested in conservation work as an undergraduate student, where she majored in zoology at the University of Rhode Island. Her original career path would have taken her to medical school, but an influential professor introduced her to sea turtles.
From there, she was hooked. On a trip after graduation, she met a friend who connected her with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, which turned into a full-time fisheries position. Her job studying sturgeon led her to help draft a management plan for Fort Stewart Army Base. This turned into an opportunity to pursue a master’s degree—which is how Weber found her way to the USGS Georgia Cooperative Unit at Warnell.
“It was Dr. Cecil Jennings’ first year as a professor, and I had the good fortune of getting to work with him as my major professor who later became my mentor and friend. And it worked out fabulously,” she says. “I was able to come to school with data in hand and really be able to hit the ground running.”
Between the field experience she’d gained after her undergraduate degree and the mix of disciplines she encountered at Warnell, it helped give Weber a fuller perspective of conservation and management issues.
“Warnell gave me a solid foundation—between my course work and field experiences I received an outstanding education and developed a robust network,” she says. “Today, I work quite a bit with the forest industry, and actually a lot of UGA alums, out in the private sector. So, I feel like I got good, broad and diverse opportunities in the short time I was there.”
But beyond the professional training, the connections and friendships formed during her years at Warnell continue to resonate. And that, she says, is one of the most valuable aspects of her training.
“Some of my closest friends and partners are folks that I met there,” she says. “I have so many fond memories—it’s just amazing.”