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7/31/2014
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Social Media & The USFWS: InformationWeek Radio

Listen in on our chat with US Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe as he describes how his agency has harnessed Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites to keep national wildlife refuge visitors informed.

Towering trees, clear-running streams, rare plants and animals, and… Facebook updates? The new reality of social networks means new tactics in reaching the public, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service is enthusiastically embracing those tactics. The agency, a bureau of the Department of the Interior, manages more than 550 National Wildlife Refuges along with thousands of other areas and facilities. How does it manage social media along with all of the physical assets under its control? That's what I asked the director of the agency in an interview that sits at the heart of a very special episode of InformationWeek Radio.

In Naturally Social: An Interview With Dan Ashe, scheduled for 3:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, Aug. 1, you'll be able to hear a conversation I recently had with the director. It was a wide-ranging conversation in which we talked about why the agency has turned to social networks, what the agency's social network "followers" get from their interaction with the agency, and what Dan has learned from his very active presence on Twitter. We also had a chance to talk about how the agency manages its social media presence -- no small issue for a geographically diverse organization that encompasses functions ranging from biology to bureaucracy.

Dan Ashe, director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

(Source: US Fish and Wildlife Service)
Dan Ashe, director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
(Source: US Fish and Wildlife Service)

But that's not all. In this show we're also bringing you an interview with one of the people who puts the agency's social media policies into practice. Candice Stevenson is Refuge Operations Specialist for the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. I had a chance to go to the Refuge and see the land (and some of the flora and fauna) they talk about on their Facebook page. I talked with some of the people who follow that account about their reasons for doing so and then spoke with Candice on a wind-swept observation platform looking out over part of the refuge. It's a rare view: brackish tidal wetlands with one of the world's largest buildings (NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building) in the distance.

Ospreys nest near NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building, the largest single-story building in the world. 

(Source: NASA/Daniel Casper)
Ospreys nest near NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building, the largest single-story building in the world.
(Source: NASA/Daniel Casper)

It turns out that social media isn't just a way for the agency to point people toward photos of nature -- though quite a lot of that goes on -- but also an opportunity to educate the public on conservation and natural resources matters, policy and legal issues, and changes in the activities or status of resources that might have an effect on visitors' plans or an impact on the surrounding area. In the case of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, that can include prescribed burns and hunting information, but it can mean different things for the different areas and resources under the agency's management.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service uses social media to warn visitors to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge about controlled burns. 

(Source: Michael Good, USFWS)
The US Fish and Wildlife Service uses social media to warn visitors to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge about controlled burns.
(Source: Michael Good, USFWS)

There are lessons in the social media experience of the Fish & Wildlife Service that any IT executive can appreciate. More than that, it's a fascinating story of an agency looking for new ways to reach the public with news and information about what it does on the public's behalf. Register here and join us at 3:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, Aug. 1, for Naturally Social: An Interview With Dan Ashe. The discussion around the interviews should be lively, as well: Staff from the agency will be in the audience to help answer questions you might have about social media and our natural resources. It's a great way to wrap up a week -- we look forward to seeing you there!

Sophisticated attacks demand real-time risk management and continuous monitoring. Here's how federal agencies are meeting that challenge. Get the new Flexibility Equals Strength issue of InformationWeek Government Tech Digest today. (Free registration required.)

Curtis Franklin Jr. has been writing about technologies and products in computing and networking since the early 1980s. He contributes to a number of technology-industry publications including Information Week , ChannelWeb , Network ... View Full Bio

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Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2014 | 12:29:41 PM
Re: How interesting!
Oh, Curt, but it's not so much the competition of your radio show with the sunny Friday evening as it is the fact that at my local 10pm my eyes sometimes refuse to stay open after having been opened since 5am. :D

The early mornings are so pretty, too. And usually my most productive time. But I will really try to be there. It all sounds so interesting. 

-Susan 
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
7/31/2014 | 12:21:25 PM
Re: How interesting!
@Susan, we hope you can be there -- I'd love your thoughts on what the agency is doing. Of course, I know that 1500 EDT is getting into the evening in Europe and there's only so much I can do on the radio to compete with the charm of a rare Summer Friday evening!
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2014 | 11:53:53 AM
How interesting!
Curt, how super interesting. :) The only problem is that I am not sure if I will be able to attend at 3pm. :/ I'll try. 

-Susan
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
7/31/2014 | 10:06:39 AM
Re: Not @USFWS
Very true, David -- thanks for pointing this out. If folks want to find all of the various social media accounts for the agency, they can go to http://www.fws.gov/home/socialmedia/index.html -- it has links to their Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, and Google+ activities. 
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
7/31/2014 | 9:45:18 AM
Not @USFWS
Note that @USFWS turns out to be someone else - @USFWSHQ is the real deal.
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