Extraordinary Volunteer Duo Enhances Wildlife Refuges with Passion and Dedication In The Western United States — The National Wildlife Refuge Association


Mark Ackerman and Joyce Atkinson, the dynamic conservation ambassadors, have left an indelible mark on numerous national wildlife refuges, showcasing their unparalleled dedication and unwavering commitment. Supporting the purposes of 11 national wildlife refuges, including Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado, Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Nevada, and Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, they have volunteered over 10,000 hours of their time in the past seven years. This extraordinary feat speaks volumes about their unwavering commitment and dedication to supporting refuge programs. Their exceptional contributions have earned them the prestigious Volunteer of the Year Award for the 2023 Wildlife Refuge Awards presented by the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

This esteemed accolade celebrates the outstanding achievements of volunteers who passionately support the operation and management of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The National Wildlife Refuge Association’s 2023 Wildlife Refuge Awards ceremony and dinner will take place on September 26th at 5:30 pm at the renowned Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., and media coverage of this event is highly encouraged.

“Many of our volunteers enjoy leading nature walks and interacting with visitors, which is so important. Mark and Joyce literally get their hands dirty, operating tractors, excavators and backhoes,” said Keely Lopez, Arapaho Refuge Manager. “They go the extra yard to understand how refuge needs fit into the overall management of these lands and the goals driving each project. Since they started volunteering on refuges, they have logged over 10,000 hours with many more hours worked they did not report.”

Among their notable accomplishments are:

  • Conducting research and implementing low-cost, effective water treatment solutions to eliminate foul-smelling and foul-tasting water, ensuring a better experience for visitors at Arapaho NWR.

  • Mentoring seasonal technicians and Youth Conservation Corps enrollees, imparting invaluable skills in construction, welding, and small engine repair.

  • Installing five automated Motus Wildlife Tracking System (MOTUS) telemetry stations across four refuges in southern Nevada. This contribution enhances international collaborative research and education on migratory animal ecology and conservation, facilitated by Birds Canada and partnering organizations.

Mark Ackerman and Joyce Atkinson’s remarkable achievements exemplify the transformative power of volunteerism. Their unwavering dedication and hands-on involvement have elevated the conservation efforts across multiple national wildlife refuges. Join us in applauding their exceptional contributions at the National Wildlife Refuge Association 2023 Wildlife Refuge Awards, honoring their remarkable commitment to preserving our cherished national wildlife refuges.


The National Wildlife Refuge Association is a non-profit exclusively focused on protecting, promoting, and enhancing the 850-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, the world’s largest network of lands and waters set aside for wildlife conservation.

For all media inquiries and questions, please contact Eden Taylor, Communications Manager at etaylor@refugeassociation.org.

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