Introducing Tara Wertz, MNWR Deputy Project Leader


Written by Peter Pearsall/Photo courtesy of Tara Wertz

Tara Wertz is the new Deputy Project Leader at Malheur Refuge. In her role she supervises Refuge operational programs including Budget and Administration, Visitor Services, Wildlife and Aquatic Biology (Wildlife Inventory and Monitoring, Habitat Management), and Facility and Infrastructure Maintenance. 

Wertz was born and raised in Central Indiana, in a small farming community. Her family often took vacations out West, where they toured National Parks and Monuments and introduced Wertz to the world of land and resource management. Wertz knew from an early age that this was the career path for her.

“Unfortunately, nobody knew what a wildlife biologist was in my family or in my high school, so I kind of had to research it by myself.”

Her research led her to pursue wildlife biology at Murray State University and a Master’s degree at South Dakota University, where she studied wild turkeys and their nesting habitat.

Eventually Wertz landed a role with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in La Grande as the regional habitat biologist.

“I was doing a lot of work with private landowners, doing all kinds of habitat projects: big game, upland game. Also got to do some research with black bears, mountain lions and elk. I was there for 11 years.”

After that, Wentz took what she described as a dream job: working as a caribou biologist at Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“It was incredible: Working with polar bears and tundra birds and caribou. Working with my Canadian counterparts. Going and flying into places that very few people even have heard, of let alone seen,” Wertz said. “This kid from the cornfields of Indiana could have never dreamed of the things that I’ve seen and done in Alaska at Arctic Refuge.”

From there, Wertz went on to work at several other Refuges in the lower 48, from Ding Darling in Florida to Merced in the Central Valley of California to Arapahoe, high in the Colorado mountains. Now she’s landed at Malheur.

In her role as Deputy Project Leader, Wertz works with and supervises several Refuge staff who execute the day-to-day duties of the various programs at the Refuge. Wertz also will work collaboratively with Refuge staff and partners on management of Refuge meadows, restoration of Malheur Lake, and developing a planning process for evaluating rehabilitation opportunities for the Donner and Blitzen River, among several other priority Refuge programs and projects.

“It never hurts to look at what’s being done at a Refuge with a critical eye,” Wertz said. “It’s not necessarily that folks are doing something wrong, but perhaps we could do things more efficiently, or make tweaks here and there, learning and adapting along the way. Ultimately we’re aiming to improve resource management to the betterment of the species that we’re trying to manage.”

Wertz is looking forward to working closely with Refuge partners, including Friends of Malheur.

“At the last two Refuges I worked at, we didn’t have Friends groups. So I’m eager to get to know folks in the Friends group and the people that support us. I hope to glean from their experience and institutional knowledge of Malheur Refuge.”

Welcome to the Refuge, Tara Wertz!

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Tags

  • Latest Posts

    Related Posts​