New Upper Mississippi Wildlife Refuge leader brings river-deep expertise

  • Article by: BEENA RAGHAVENDRAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 22, 2014 - 6:58 PM

Sabrina Chandler will move to Winona as the new Upper Mississippi River Wildlife Refuge complex manager.


Sabrina Chandler, a veteran in ecosystem conservation along rivers, will help oversee wildlife refuges as a manager for Upper Mississippi River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in August.

When Sabrina Chandler is on the job, life can be unpredictable — she could slip into water, dodge barges or fall into beaver holes.

Those risks are routine for Chandler, who has worked in wildlife refuges along rivers for more than a decade.

“You always have the adventures of being in the backwater and getting up in the bushes and knocking snakes out of the trees or hornet nests,” Chandler said.

In August, Chandler is returning to the rivers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington, D.C., to start her new position as complex manager for the Upper Mississippi River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. She’ll help oversee the 16 wildlife and habitat conservation refuges in the Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri rivers.

“Taking this position helps me get back to that resource and that conservation on the ground that I’ve been hoping to implement on the national level,” Chandler said.

The move to Winona will be a change for Chandler, who’s mostly worked in the Southeast and at the other end of the Mississippi.

A constant love of rivers

Problems facing the Mississippi River include urbanization and habitat degradation. A river needs to be able to naturally flood to stay a functioning river — otherwise, its potential for nonnatural flooding increases, Chandler said. Controlling flooding with levees and building communities along the river doesn’t help that, she said.

Chandler fell in love with big rivers while growing up in southern Mississippi along the Pascagoula River. In college, she visited the Mississippi River on a field trip.

She was a natural leader early on, said Bruce Leopold, a professor at Mississippi State University who worked with Chandler.

“She certainly had an affinity toward aquatic resources but her skills and her drive did not just limit her to that,” Leopold said.

Sea turtles to Hurricane Katrina

She kicked off her career in Savannah, Ga., as a wildlife refuge specialist. She has worked to conserve sea turtles and red wolves in South Carolina and in hardwood forests in Arkansas; she also helped with the cleanup in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina.

Chandler said she’d sometimes find full bookshelves and clothing floating in the river after the hurricane. “The storm surge there pushed anything and everything into all the backwaters and up the river systems,” she said.

For the past couple years, she worked in D.C. as the chief of staff to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. She brings many skills to the new position, including an understanding of the situation in the rivers and exposure to national issues, said Tom Melius, regional director for the Midwest region of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“This experience dealing with big river ecosystems and coordinating with flood and oil spill response is very important to have in this type of a position,” Melius said.

Chandler has other aspirations beyond her career, including taking advantage of the outdoors to keep her 3-year-old son active.

“We dealt a lot with alligators on the Lower Miss,” she said. “That’s one thing that will be different on the upper end, not having to watch out for the alligators.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 7 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 1
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Houston 85 FINAL
Miami 90
Indiana 89 FINAL
Minnesota 107
Utah 105 FINAL
Oklahoma City 91
Portland 93 FINAL
Denver 75
Phoenix 114 FINAL
LA Lakers 108
LA Clippers 107 FINAL
Golden State 125
San Jose 3 FINAL
Boston 5
NY Rangers 4 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 3
Toronto 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Detroit 1 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 2
Arizona 3 FINAL(SO)
Nashville 4
Carolina 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 3
Philadelphia 0 FINAL
Chicago 4
Vancouver 3 FINAL
Dallas 6
Florida 4 FINAL(OT)
Colorado 3
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(OT)
Calgary 1
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question