Nomination Statement for Toni Westland, Recipient of the Florida Chapter of The Wildlife Society’s 2018 Outstanding Educator Award
Toni Westland has been a Refuge Ranger at “Ding” Darling NWR since 2002 and Supervisory Refuge Ranger since 2009. Her work at “Ding” Darling ranges from leading education programs for kids and adults to overseeing visitor services for over 930,000 visitors a year and initiating new and innovative projects (i.e., Learning Laboratories) that garner national attention. She has successfully engaged in numerous outreach projects, including hosting an Animal Planet pilot TV program called Refuge Wild, a YouTube Nature Program for kids (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OT_hmSVpQIw), and a video about the importance of unplugging from your gadgets and reconnecting with nature on the PBS series “What’s Your Calling?”. She has been instrumental in development of the refuge’s Environmental Field Trips, School Outreach Opportunities and Interactive PowerPoint Presentations for K-12 that teach about Florida environmental topics and meet Florida Sunshine State Standards. She assists with management of nearly 300 volunteers and continually coordinates with the refuge’s Friends Group to conduct Outreach Events and Educational Programs across Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades Counties. She is essential to the planning and implementation of the Refuge’s annual Ding Darling Days, which is a weeklong event that starts with Family Fun Day and ends with the Conservation Art Day that includes some of the nearly 300 students who entered the Florida Junior Duck Stamp Contest. Additionally, she oversees and coordinates Junior Duck Stamp Contests for the entire Southeast. Toni sees every day as different, just like every day is a new experience at the Refuge – her favorite place in Lee County. She loves working with wildlife as much as people, and when she is not enjoying “Ding” Darling, she is out on the water with her family or exploring nature with her two daughters.