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The Lone Arranger

By Emily Venemon


Nesting colony on Sand Island, a part of Midway Atoll NWR. Photo credit: David Patte/USFWS

I never thought I would end up working for an organization like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, let alone being allowed to travel to places like Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Talk about a change of scenery. I spent my first week on Midway Atoll NWR feeling like I was in a strange (but pleasant!) dream. The sheer volume of and accessibility to wildlife there is overwhelmingly amazing. It is beautiful, but also heartbreaking. Life and death are equally visible.


A red-tailed tropic bird and its chick on Midway Atoll NWR. Photo credit: David Patte/USFWS

One day a volunteer pointed out to me an adorable Red-tailed tropicbird chick tucked up underneath its parent. A few minutes later she showed me a Laysan duck that had died of avian botulism. I loved watching the albatross chicks flap their wings; I wanted all of them to grow up healthy and fly out to sea. Every day I saw birds that had died of dehydration, plastic ingestion, and other maladies, however. On Midway Atoll NWR, the struggle for life in the face of natural and man-made adversities is present in a way I have never seen anywhere else.

Working for the Service has been an interesting challenge so far. Being a “lone arranger” (as they call it in the archives field) has been somewhat difficult. There have been many times when I have felt lost and overwhelmed because of the volume, disorder, and unfamiliarity of the records I work with.

In some ways, the missions of records professionals and the Service are linked through the need for preservation. One of the primary duties of archivists and records managers is to preserve what is important from the past so that that information can be accessible in the future.


Laysan albatross at sunset on Midway Atoll NWR. Photo credit: Brenda Zuan/USFWS

The Service works to preserve species and ecosystems so that they will be a part of this planet in the future. I think both fields struggle for recognition because their missions are not always visible and urgent in the day-to-day lives of most people, but the precious things we are trying to preserve will be missed by those people if we cannot continue our work. I am honored to serve the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in my small way, and I hope that the records that I am working to make accessible will help to continue its mission.


Emily Venemon is a volunteer intern in Honolulu, HI with the Pacific Reefs National Wildlife Refuges and Monuments Complex.  Currently a Masters student for Archives and Records Management at Western Washington University, Emily is on a 6-month internship to lead an ambitious program to organize and digitize decade’s worth of files and records related to the history, management, and research of Hawaiian and Remote Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuges.  During her 6-month internship, she escaped her desk in the Honolulu file room to spend a few weeks helping with records at the remote refuge station at Midway Atoll NWR.

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