Downtown, in the park, at the refuge — discovering nature anywhere and everywhere
As #LatinoConservationWeek marches on, we share a reflection on summer at the Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex, written by Hispanic Access Foundation intern Michael Bonilla.
As an intern with the Hispanic Access Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service I have built some strong connections to our local and state wildlife. Gratefully, through the wildlife refuge system in Rhode Island, I have come to understand that I don’t need to visit the rain forest to experience nature. So far, it has been an inspiring experience to get to work with so many scientists that are so passionate about the protection and conservation of wildlife — from wetland and salt marsh habitats to birds such as saltmarsh sparrows to piping plovers. Thus, participating in the environmental education program I get to inform and help bridge a connection between kids and their natural, wild surroundings.
On the other hand, I’ve also had the opportunity to work with the Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership (PPUWRP). It has been an eye-opening experience, participating in environmental initiatives in the city of Providence, RI to connect urban communities with parks as natural settings. My goal with PPUWRP is to provide support and educational programming for families and to use parks and local green spaces to educate and to spark interest in the wildlife refuge.
Whether we are in the woods away from city or in the middle of downtown, there are learning and connection opportunities that community members can build with nature. From counting oyster catchers in Sandy Point Island to carrion beetles in a park right in the city, this internship has allowed me to realize that conservation and natural experiences can take place anywhere, and that all the members of a community can conserve our local ecosystems and habitats.
For Latino Conservation Week (July 16-24), Michael will be leading a week-long summer camp called Urban Explorers where kids can discover nature in neighborhoods, parks, green spaces and backyards.