J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge welcomed Nate Caswell, its newest deputy refuge ranger this past December.
Caswell's expertise is in fisheries and wildlife management. He received a master's degree in biology from Central Michigan University.
Previously, Caswell worked at Imperial Wildlife Refuge in Yuma, Arizona where he was the refuge manager.
"As the manager, you're ultimately responsible for everything that takes place there. It could be anything from working with the biologists on projects, serving as the primary contact to the public or partners to working with the maintenance staff and budget management," Caswell said.
Caswell said his transition has been rather smooth since he and his family moved from Arizona to Southwest Florida. One of his biggest challenges, he said, has been adjusting to a completely different landscape.
"It's been great, my family really likes it here and it's been a really good fit. I'm new to not just the state of Florida, but the ecosystem and the issues that go along with it. Out there, we had 26,000 acres and by western standards, that's pretty small. It's a different environment in terms of the environment itself and the issues that go with it. We had (the) desert and the Colorado River and all the issues associated with it. Here, it's smaller acreage wise but it's vastly bigger in terms of its visitation. We had maybe 6,000-8,000 people come through our visitation center there. I looked at this as a good learning opportunity. 'Ding' Darling is at the high end of the spectrum in terms of visitation and public use," he said.
Caswell said that working with wildlife was something that he always wanted to do growing up.
"I actually have a pretty non-traditional history in the fish and wildlife service. I actually started out in our fisheries program. I was fish biologist working on big rivers in the Midwest for 10 years before I made the jump over to refuges. It's not unheard of, but it's not that common," Caswell said.
As deputy refuge manager, Caswell assists Paul Tritaik, "Ding" Darling's wildlife refuge manager with any projects he needs an extra hand with.
"My job is here is to support him and accomplish all the myriad of thing that are involved with refuge management. I have my hands in biology, maintenance, public use and facilities. I supervise a number of the staff members as well. It's a catch-all position," he said.
Caswell is an avid hunter and fisherman when he isn't at work. He said he's hoping to learn more about salt water fishing, but as of lately, he and his family are still trying to get settled.
"For the last few weeks, it's been an exercise in getting settled. It's funny how popular you get when you move to Florida. We've had visitors and we haven't even been here for two months," he laughs.