Tag Archives: Connecting People to Nature

Our wild summer

Few experiences can rival spending a summer working on a national wildlife refuge. In partnership with the Hispanic Access Foundation, the Connecting Latinos to Natural Resource Conservation program has provided this experience through a highly competitive application process.  Last summer, 11 college students participated in 12-week internships to help connect them to work in conservation. The interns were introduced to careers in natural resources at seven wildlife refuges and participated in training that included real-world public education, interpretation, communications, conservation, and wildlife rehabilitation.

Meet the interns!

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2018 HAF Intern Ingrid Chavez, 23 holds a fish she reeled in.

Ingrid Chavez, 23 – San Francisco, CA

Refuge: Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge

Interests: Hiking, traveling, Bay Area sports, animals, Latin American news

Dream Job: Working in conservation

“…We take for granted all that our natural environment does for us. We need to protect our natural resources for future generations, especially for communities that are disproportionately affected by environmental injustices… The HAF internship has taught me to be flexible and open to new experiences. I have worked on a variety of projects from environmental education to water chestnut picking to working with endangered Puritan tiger beetles.”

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2018 HAF Intern Daniel Correa, 24.

Daniel Correa, 24 – Old Bridge, NJ/ Medellin, Colombia

Refuge: Lenape National Wildlife Refuge Complex –  Great Swamp, Wallkill River, Cherry Valley, Shawangunk Grassland National Wildlife Refuges

Interests: Hiking, traveling and exploring new places domestically and abroad, learning about international news and developments

Dream Job: Work as a state or federal official that focuses on environmental restoration and mapping

“…I believe that protecting natural resources is connected with the well-being of communities. We can ensuring that communities throughout our country have good living conditions, and are be able to enjoy the outdoors by protecting our natural resources and promoting good sustainable ideas… The HAF Internship has taught me about the importance of becoming part of the community in which you would like to support and connect. Putting time and effort into that community carries a lot of importance and outreach is key to connecting with that community.”

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HAF Intern Oscar Hernandez, 18

Oscar Hernandez, 18 – Lakeville, MN

Refuge: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Interests: Wildlife and family

Dream Job: Urban outreach specialist

“…Being in nature is a great place to just be in and explore. Nature is beautiful and I want other people to enjoy it for a long time. The HAF internship taught me to reinforce my belief that the work that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is important and that conservation is a widespread issue; it impacts the quality of everyone living on this Earth.”

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2018 HAF Intern Cindy Garcia, 22 from The Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Cindy Garcia, 22 – New Haven, CT

Refuge: Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex

Interests: Environmental humanities, especially political geography and indigenous ecological knowledge

Dream Job: Professor of non-western environmental history

“…It’s about fostering profound experiences with nature on a societal level. I believe that they make a difference in our environmental ethics and stewardship, which is critical in this day in age. As an environmental educator, I do my best to have kids explore their local environment through a variety of sensory activities. This approach can help minimize the fear of dirt, the disgust of insects, and the rejection of unappealing objects. While it’s hard to quantify how much my work positively influences these children, personally it’s the amount of effort that matters… The HAF internship has taught me the importance of building relationships in order to accomplish a common goal. I believe relationships are meant to foster creativity and intersect ideas that would facilitate that process of accomplishing it. For instance, Providence Playcorps staff and I shared an interest in using play as a means to activate Providence’s neighborhoods. They relied on me teach groups of children about nature, while I relied on them to send me to different local parks. While the process of meeting and coordinating was not easy, at the end of the day the people who benefit most are the children.”

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HAF intern Jorge Abraham Lopez Trejo

Jorge Abraham Lopez Trejo, 26 – Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico

Refuge: Patuxent Research Refuge

Interests: Environmental education, environmental justice, Latino empowerment, urban planning. sustainable development. I love plants and history too.

Dream Job: Working with communities to develop green sustainable spaces that fulfills the community needs.

“I want to make sure that future generations have a planet to enjoy, clean air to breathe, fresh water to drink, wildlife to be amazed, and nature to be inspired. Environmental conservation with education are our biggest allies in this battle for our planet… The HAF internship has taught me to never give up! Perseverance and flexibility were major key players during my internship. Speak your truth, tell your story, connect with people and listen. It only takes one action, little or big to inspire a change; be the change, be the answer, be the solution.”

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HAF intern Gabriel Jimenez

Gabriel Jimenez, 31 – Saginaw, MI

Refuge: Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

Interests: Community service, mentoring youth, fishing, hunting, any outdoor related activity

Dream Job: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer

“It is bigger than who I am. What I do now though, matters. I do this for my children’s children and do it for their best interest. We must all decide what is best for the environment and continue to keep protecting our natural resources… The HAF internship has taught me additional knowledge of the many different career paths within the FWS and networked with many FWS professionals. I believe it’s one of my biggest things I value most from this internship.”

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2018 HAF Intern Kelly Vera, 22, holding a goose.

Kelly Vera, 22 – Toms River, NJ

Refuge: Lenape National Wildlife Refuge Complex –  Great Swamp, Wallkill River, Cherry Valley, Shawangunk Grassland National Wildlife Refuges

Interests: Reading, writing, hiking, and thrifting

Dream Job: A writer for National Geographic

“If there is one thing I love to quote it’s “If you think the economy is more important than the environment, try holding your breath while you count your money.” The earth and it’s endless giving of supplies is what gives us life everyday… No matter how tired I am or how overwhelmed I may feel from the work, I never quit because this is my passion. It is much greater than myself and the work could never keep me from conservation and environmental work.”

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HAF intern Gabrielle Perez.

Gabrielle Perez, 19 – New York, NY

Refuge: John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

Interests: Environmental policy, conservation, environmental education, women’s empowerment

Dream Job: Being the head of the EPA!

“…I know that without a healthy natural environment, every single living thing is at risk of having having seriously damaging health issues. Our well-being depends on the well-being of the planet more than many people realize and I just want to help people become more aware of not only their connection to, but there dependence on nature!.. The HAF internship taught me that it is important to help people love and appreciate nature before hitting them with the hard and scary facts about what’s going on with the planet.”

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HAF intern Stephanie Melara.

Stephanie Melara, 22 – Elizabeth, NJ

Refuge: Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge

Interests: Animation, marine biology, wood working

Dream Job: Researcher studying deep sea hydrothermal vents

“…it is simply a responsibility. As an adult it is my responsibility to care of the place I call home and to make sure I am leaving a suitable, beautiful environment for all the other adults who will come after me… The HAF internship taught me that everything you get out of a job, a hobby or a passion is highly dependent on what you put in. This means that anyone and everyone can make a difference, if they are willing to put in the effort.”

Birds, bats and burns: All in a day’s play at Camp Sepawonuk

With the cold weather creeping into the northeast, we thought we would take a moment to reflect back on the warm, sunny and playful days of going to summer camp. Our staff in the field often partner with Native American Tribes on wildlife biology and conservation projects. The partnership we highlight today is one that is also critical to the work we do as an agency: connecting young people to nature. Read how a group of Passamaquaddy youth are learning and growing with the help of experts in the field of wildlife conservation.

 

Summer camp is a ritual, a rite of passage, for many kids growing up today. Exploring the outdoors, getting dirty and spending time with friends is a big part of what draws kids to wanting to go back each year. And the same holds true for Passamaquoddy  middle school students from Pleasant Point and Indian Township, Maine, who attended Camp Sepawonuk this past summer as part of an outdoor education partnership among Maine Indian Education, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge.

Refuge biologist Mike ? works with campers on forestry management.

Refuge forester Mike Heath teaches campers about forest succession and management. Photo credit: Maine Indian Education Program.

Camp Sepawonuk (the Passamaquoddy word for tomorrow) is a summer workshop that focuses on natural resource and outdoor education programs, and introduces 6th through 8th grade students to a variety of conservation topics and natural resource careers. Staff from both Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge and MIT teach the students about microbiology,  forest succession, the science behind prescribed burns, fighting wildfires, American woodcock biology and the impact of white-nose syndrome on Maine’s bat populations.

 

Archery

Campers learn and practice archery skills as part of the camp curriculum. Photo credit: Maine Indian Education Program.

This past summer marked the second year the camp was held at the refuge and surrounding natural areas of eastern Maine. When asked what they liked best about the camp two students from Pleasant Point said they loved exploring the outdoors and working with staff and students from MIT. The campers enjoyed taking trips to Sand Dollar Beach on First Island and to Eastport, Maine, where they saw and touched jellyfish. Participating in hands-on learning experiences in nature is a big draw for most of the students. Another favorite activity for many campers was learning how to use archery equipment.

 

Bat Talk

Refuge biologist Ray Brown talks to students about bat populations and white-nose syndrome. Photo credit: Maine Indian Education Program.

Students enjoy the week-long camp experience, and refuge and MIT staff love getting to share their passion for the outdoors and knowledge about the natural world. It is a win- win for everyone involved in the program.

Erin Guire is a classroom teacher at the Beatrice Rafferty School in Maine. She is a leader in planning and coordinating many aspects of Camp Sepawonuk.

Erin Guire is a classroom teacher at the Beatrice Rafferty School in Maine. She is a leader in planning and coordinating many aspects of Camp Sepawonuk.

The program is made possible by the generous support of the Trust in Diversity and Exchange Foundation, as well as the time and expertise of staff and students from the refuge and MIT.

Plans are in the works for next year’s camp session, with a number of students eagerly awaiting the days until they can spend time outside learning and exploring.

Read more stories about Camp Sepawonuk, 2014 and 2015