Meet our Hispanic Access Foundation Interns @ a Refuge near you!

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Interns, Hispanic Access Foundation, and Service staff meet at Patuxent Research Refuge for orientation and a nature walk. Credit: Maite Arce, HAF

We are proud to announce our partnership with the Hispanic Access Foundation in an effort to connect Latino youth with careers in natural resource conservation. The U.S. is projected to become more racially and ethnically diverse in the coming years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 29 percent of Americans in 2060 are projected to be Hispanic – that’s more than one quarter of the total population! As part of the Service’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program, interns co-advised by the Hispanic Access Foundation have been placed at seven national wildlife refuges throughout the Northeast, and tasked to reach out to communities near their refuge and organize a conservation-minded event for Latino Conservation Week. Initiated by the Hispanic Access Foundation, Latino Conservation Week (July 16 – 24) is an annual celebration of outdoor recreation and the permanent protection of land, wildlife, water and clean air. Latino communities come together by getting outside to go hiking, camping, or simply by learning about conservation efforts in the communities and participating in activities that protect our natural resources.

Our interns will gain hands-on experience in community outreach, interpretation, and conservation, trained by natural resource professionals and mentored by staff from the Hispanic Access Foundation. The ultimate goal is to recruit inspired, skilled, culturally, ethnically and economically diverse young people into natural resources careers.

Please join us in welcoming our first cohort of Hispanic Access Foundation interns. We will be following them throughout the summer as they share experiences from the field:

Wilson Andres Acuña @ Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge                                  Wilson, 28, was born and raised in Colombia and moved to the U.S. at age 17. He has completed a Bachelor of Science in biology and environmental studies from Tufts University and will be based at Assabet National Wildlife Refuge in Sudbury, Mass. 20160604_125833He currently works as an environmental educator for the Massachusetts Audubon Society and is a member of the visitor services and education staff at the Summer Star Wildlife Sanctuary. Wilson’s assignment at Assabet will involve both public outreach and field work, including educational programming for children, bird surveys, horseshoe crab tagging, and coordinating volunteers .

Ariel Martinez @ Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge 
Ariel, 19, is a sophomore at Smith College pursuing a degree in Paula Ariel Martinez - FWS photoenvironmental science and policy. She feels passionately about equitable access to the outdoors and wants to learn more about community engagement and conservation field work. Ariel’s assignment will support the refuge biologists, visitor services, and maintenance staff.  Ariel will be serving urban communities across four states, including Springfield, Mass.

Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge
4365434338_728b9b0862_o Wallkill serves the greater New York City metropolitan area, but it is in new Jersey. This intern’s assignment is heavily focused on species surveys and invasive species control. He/she will be based out of Great Swamp national Wildlife Refuge in Basking Ridge, NJ.

Michael Bonilla @Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex                              Michael, 20, is originally from the Dominican Republic. He has a passion for agriculture and has worked in the maintenance of his family farm. Currently, he is a senior at the UniversityMichael Bonilla - FWS photo of Rhode Island studying environmental and natural resource economics and Spanish. Michael completed an environmental fellowship in 2014 and worked at a research farm with different organic pest control methods. This summer, he will connect the general public with nature by engaging them with arts and education at urban parks in the Providence, R.I. metropolitan area.

Ivette López @Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge
Ivette, 22, is originally from San José, Calif. but recently graduated from Yale University with a B.S. in geology and geophysics and Spanish. She hopes to engage the USFWS bio picpublic with the importance of conserving Earth’s landscapes for future generations. After this internship, she plans to apply to graduate school and pursue a PhD in geological engineering. Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge serves the greater New Haven area, where Ivette will be splitting her time between the Peabody Museum and New Haven Parks.

Amber Betances @ John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge 
Amber, 22, just graduated from Rutgers University with a B.S. in Landscape Architecture, and is currently pursuing her Masters in the same Amber Betances - FWS photofield. After graduate school, she will focus her career on community engagement and equitable access to green spaces for traditionally underrepresented groups. John Heinz serves the Philadelphia community, where Amber will assess community needs and work with visitor services staff to build educational programming.


Sabrina Nuñez @ Patuxent Research Refuge
Sabrina Nunez - FWS photo
Patuxent, in Laurel, Md., serves both the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas. Sabrina, 19, is a Washington D.C. native and a rising junior at Florida International University where she’s pursuing a B.S. in marine biology. She aspires to become a marine mammalogist and would like to focus on dolphin and sea turtle conservation. Sabrina will assist biologists in the field with trail maintenance and invasive species removal. She will also participate in environmental education programs and community outreach.

This internship program will last for approximately 12 weeks. For more information, click here.

Check back for a recap of our group orientation at the nation’s capital — from Patuxent Research Refuge to the Lincoln Memorial and beyond.

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