DOINews: USFWS: University of Nevada-Las Vegas Students Spend Spring Break Restoring Habitat on Desert National Wildlife Refuge

Last edited 09/05/2019

Group photo of University of Nevada-Las Vegas students at Desert NWR.
UNLV students pause for a group photo. From left, Thomas Valencia, Rebecca Roman, Daphnie Churchill, Natasha Kotte, Andrea Zavala, and Jackson Nightshade. In the rear is Katie Ressie, the group's chaperon. Photo courtesy of Friends of Nevada Wilderness.
Group of students planting native vegetation at Desert NWR.
Planting native vegetation on the Desert NWR was one of the jobs the UNLV students performed during the 2014 Alternative Spring Break. - Photo courtesy of Friends of Nevada Wilderness.
Group photo of students carrying shovels and large pieces of debris.

Students and volunteers strike a pose before they carry debris from an old guzzler out of the Sheep Mountains. - Photo courtesy of Friends of Nevada Wilderness.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with Friends of Nevada Wilderness, conducted the 4th Annual Alternative Spring Break the week of March 17, 2014. The volunteer and educational program took place on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge and included students from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Six UNLV students and their chaperon, along with Service staff and volunteers, spent four days and four nights on the wildlife refuge working on various habitat restoration projects. Sponsoring organizations included the Friends of Desert Wildlife Refuges, the Outside Las Vegas Foundation, and REI.

The students and volunteers planted 26 mesquite trees in riparian habitat, returned a quarter-mile-long illegal road to a more natural state, closed off access to a second illegal road, collected 15 cubic yards of trash and hiked out with the remnants of an old water guzzler no longer in use.

The Las Vegas and Sheep Mountain Ranges provided the setting for the work and the first camping trip for many of the students. They gained hands-on experience in the management and restoration of desert landscapes, which translates into practical experience on their resumes. Guest speakers from UNLV, the College of Southern Nevada, and the State of Nevada traveled each night to the refuge to lecture on various related topics, including the plant life zones occurring on the wildlife refuge, climate change, and the effects of solar radiation on plant distribution in the Sheep and Spring Mountains.

“Being in the desert with such passionate people is something amazing,” said UNLV student Natasha Kotte. “I feel more grounded — we're doing things that make a difference.” Kotte is currently studying biochemistry at UNLV and looking forward to a career in water purification and filtration.

By: Dan Balduini, public affairs officer, Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office, USFWS

April 8, 2014

This story appears on USFWS Field Notes here.

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