Every day, the men and women of Interior go to work for the American people. Some are preserving the past and others are planning for the future. They work in the fields of law enforcement, education, science, communication, administration and maintenance. Armed with the tools of their professions and dedicated to the Department’s mission, Interior employees use their minds and hands to accomplish a wide variety of goals.
The people below represent the public servants you’ll meet when you visit public lands and engage with the Interior Department. They’re regular people doing everyday jobs, living and working in communities all over the country.
The Bureau of Indian Education is responsible for serving over 48,800 American Indian and Alaska Native students across 23 states. The bureau provides nearly 4,500 jobs and operates 183 schools. BIE educators, program staff, superintendents and other professionals are committed to improving education in Indian Country and inspiring the next generation of Indian leaders. BIE employees enjoy a range of career opportunities and engage in cultural and professional experiences like no other.
Ever since she was a kid, 2nd grade teacher Mia Toya wanted to teach in the community she grew up in: Jemez Pueblo, New Mexico. “I feel my heart is in Jemez. This is where I belong and where my calling is.” Mia loves "seeing the light bulbs go on" in her students at Jemez Day School. She spends her weekends tailoring her lesson plans to her students, many of whom speak English as well as their native Towa language. After completing two Masters degrees in Elementary Education and Administration, Mia had an opportunity to serve as the Acting Principal at Jemez Day School. This experience allowed her to see her school beyond her own classroom and provided an opportunity for her to gain new skills as a professional. “I want my students to be good citizens of not just the United States but positive community members of Jemez.”
Protecting the environment while ensuring the safe development of the nation’s offshore energy and marine mineral resources is a critical part of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s mission. For an agency that funds and conducts world-class science within the marine environment, it only makes sense that BOEM retains a team of highly trained scientists that serve as Interior’s eyes and ears on the seafloor. Biological oceanographers study marine plants and animals, often diving deep below the ocean’s surface to discover new species or monitor the health of coral reefs. The job requires a curious mind and an adventurous spirit.
When it comes to working as a biological oceanographer for BOEM, Greg Boland has done it all. In the 44 years since he finished graduate school, Greg has made 1,856 scientific dives and participated in 153 offshore research cruises. That’s more than 1,200 days at sea! He’s the author or co-author of 92 publications, and his work has dramatically increased our knowledge of coral reefs, deep-water habitats and platform communities in the Gulf of Mexico. Some of Greg’s discoveries have even made their way to the Smithsonian. If this kind of work sounds interesting to you, be on the lookout for an opening. Greg is planning to retire soon. We wish him the best, and thank him for all his years of service to science and the American public.
A park ranger is one of the first people the public might see when they visit one of the 417 parks managed by the National Park Service. Rangers lead educational programs and ensure guests have a safe experience at the park, heritage area, river, landmark or trail they are visiting. They work in a team-based environment alongside a diverse group of employees that includes museum curators, data analysts, architects, law enforcement officers and engineers. Working as a ranger requires a passion to engage people from all over the world and preserve America’s natural beauty and history.
As a young kid in inner city Detroit, Park Ranger Shelton Johnson dreamed of visiting the mountains that he saw in pictures and on the television screen. He couldn’t fathom working in a place like California’s Yosemite National Park. Ranger Shelton says his job as an interpretive ranger is to “facilitate astonishment.” Shelton feels that he is a storyteller and enjoys the challenge of connecting visitors to the environment around them. He encourages others to join the NPS “if you want to do something that challenges you, something that scares you, but is also an adventure.”
The U.S. Geological Survey is a research-based agency that provides critical science to help the public understand the Earth, minimize the negative effects of natural disasters and manage natural resources. As the nation's largest water, earth, and biological science and civilian mapping agency, USGS scientists collect, monitor, analyze and provide scientific research from many disciplines including biology, geology and chemistry.
With an expertise in marine chemistry, research geologist Renee Takesue, Ph.D., collects sediment in various bodies of water and analyzes how it affects the environment. Renee’s interest in this field stems from her childhood growing up near the ocean. When Renee considered a job at USGS after grad school, she realized her passion to explore human interaction in a changing environment and improve quality of life aligned with USGS’s mission. As a scientist, Renee’s work is very project-based. She gets to work with a variety of stakeholders, and she loves that her work continually changes from day to day. “It’s truly an integrative science.”
The Bureau of Indian Affairs provides law enforcement services as a part of its mission to protect and improve the trust assets of American Indians, Indian tribes and Alaska Natives. The Office of Justice Services employs investigators, correction officers, police officers, special agents and communications specialists who serve and protect Indian Country. BIA employees work in diverse environments that may be in urban or remote communities.
Supervisory Police Officer Jonathan Chavez first witnessed the work of BIA officers in his own tribal community of Santa Ana Pueblo. He’s always wanted to be a police officer, to show that police truly care about their communities. In his current role, he says, the best part of his job is when he gets to train the next generation of officers. Jonathan has a firm, but caring teaching style and enjoys seeing cadets graduate from the police academy.
The work at Bureau of Safety & Environmental Enforcement can often be dangerous, especially when dealing with open water and potential oil spills. Preparedness analysts are responsible for reviewing and approving oil spill response plans and making sure operators have the ability to respond should an incident occur. This type of job attracts individuals who think critically and like to solve complex problems.
Senior preparedness analyst Tommy Tregle says, “I like working to protect the environment and making sure folks are safe as they do their work offshore. It’s really fulfilling work.” Tommy studied environmental compliance and gained experience as a consultant in the oil and gas industry prior to joining the federal government. Advancements in new technology challenge Tommy to work in a dynamic environment where he is constantly learning. “[The work] is interesting and I get to travel to a lot of cool places along the Gulf Coast.”
The unsung heroes of the National Park Service, maintenance workers help provide the best possible visitor experience to public lands by accomplishing a breathtaking variety of tasks. While some specialize as heavy equipment operators or electricians, most maintenance workers spend their days repairing, cleaning, replacing and refurbishing facilities and infrastructure in America’s natural and historic treasures. From repairing footbridges on remote trails to picking up roadkill on busy highways to the never-ending tasks of cutting grass and keeping public restrooms clean, maintenance workers keep parks open and running.
At Glacier National Park in Montana, plowing snow from park roads is a daunting job, requiring a delicate touch and nerves of steel. Crew leader Stanley Stahr has worked at Glacier for 24 years and now oversees all the roads in the park. Clinging to the sides of mountains, his team carefully pushes tons of snow off roads and bridges, opening up the park to summer visitors and maintaining roads and parking lots year round. The snowpack is so big, it takes several months to safely get the job done. Despite all the hard work, Stan loves his job and takes great pride in knowing that thanks to his team, visitors get to enjoy the majesty of the park.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service leads a variety of programs to protect America’s fish, wildlife and plants. Program managers are responsible for creating and coordinating projects that address a vast range of issues, including endangered or invasive species, recreation opportunities, air/water quality improvement, volunteers and so much more. Program managers work with many stakeholders and partners to achieve their work.
Delissa Padilla Nieves was excited about the opportunity to leave her hometown of Corozal in Puerto Rico to apply her background in natural resource management and work for USFWS. As the Urban and Youth Program Manager for the USFWS Mountain-Prairie Region, Delissa creates opportunities for people to experience wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries. Her fluency in both English and Spanish helps her connect to the communities where she works. She is most excited when a young person enjoys nature and considers a career in natural resources. “I find tremendous reward engaging different audiences and generations in conservation.”
The Bureau of Reclamation is best known for managing water in the West with its dams, power plants and canals. These critical resources bring water to more than 31 million people and produce enough electricity to serve 3.5 million homes. Reclamation leverages the skills of highly qualified engineers, hydrologists, planners, biologists and researchers to operate such large scale productions.
Water Resource Modeler Jim Shannon found a perfect fit at Reclamation, where he can work in water resource management and give back to his community. Much of Jim’s work involves producing computer models and data analysis for major water management facilities like the Folsom Dam near Sacramento, California. Jim works with a very diverse team at the Division of Planning in the Mid-Pacific Region. He says his work is much richer on a professional and personal level because of the experience his co-workers bring from all over the world including Bangladesh, China and South America.
Part of the Bureau of Land Management’s multiple-use mission is to manage the federal government’s natural resource production and ensure safe and responsible energy development in the U.S. BLM employees help manage over 245 million acres of public land -- the most of any federal agency. BLM attracts people from a range of backgrounds including science, realty, law enforcement, fire management, recreation and business.
Kemba Anderson is the Branch Chief of Fluid Minerals at the Nevada State Office and manages a team that deals with oil, gas and geothermal resources production. Kemba says she works in a very fluid environment (ha, get it?) and enjoys that her work changes every day. Her team is responsible for the leasing, researching, informing, inspecting and reclaiming of oil and gas development on BLM-managed lands in Nevada.
Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement employees take pride in knowing the work they do makes a real impact when it comes to balancing the nation’s need for domestic coal production with protection of the environment. Reclamation specialists, geologists, biologists and foresters are just a few of the jobs that ensure lands used in coal mining operations are restored to beneficial use when mining is completed.
Abandoned Mine Land Program Specialist Elizabeth Smith makes it her mission to let everyone know about the good work OSMRE does to clean up mine-scarred lands. Elizabeth was first introduced to OSMRE as a college intern and saw that a job at OSMRE could offer her an experience to learn and apply her degree in Environmental Studies. “I wanted something that was fulfilling, had good benefits and something where I could further my education.” In addition to approving State Abandoned Mine Land projects for federal funding, Elizabeth is passionate about working with young people and introducing them to the diverse people, projects and careers at OSMRE. Her work involves a lot of field work that includes visiting reclamation sites as well as academic institutions.
Thanks to all of the amazing employees who shared their stories. Check out more outstanding Interior employees.