Tag Archives: environmental education

Summer at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge

This post is part of of short summer series featuring blog posts from our Hispanic Access Foundation interns. Today, we are hearing from Ariel Martinez, who spent the summer at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in New York. Read more posts in the series here

Ariel, after banding a purple martin.

For Latino Conservation Week back in July, I partnered with three different Boys and Girls Club locations, as well as two community centers. Because the refuge is positioned in between Buffalo and Rochester, I wanted to make sure we were reaching both cities. For my very first event, I worked with kids from the STEM program in the Rochester Boys and Girls Club. We went to the nearby Genesee Valley Park and did a nature photography program. The kids enjoyed it and got to pick their favorite nature photo to be framed.

The second event was at the Belle Center in Buffalo. It was a large event, and staff from the refuge helped support me. It was a blast, and the kids had a lot of fun doing things like making plaster casts of animal tracks, learning about food webs and looking at insects. The other three events were pelts and skulls lessons. I went to the Massachusetts Ave. Boys and Girls Club, the Beecher Boys and Girls Club, and the West Side Community Center in Buffalo. I taught kids about the local mammals using furs and replica skulls. There was also a voluntary wildlife ID quiz I laid out that many kids decided to try on their own. It was an amazing experience to see what things kids knew, or what they imagined about the things they saw.

My personal favorites how many people guess that the deer skull is a dinosaur and that the beaver pelt is a bear! I’ve also gotten the chance to work with monitoring and banding birds. Some of the birds I’ve gotten to work with are purple martins, Eastern bluebirds, and tree swallows. It has been really busy, but really fun and I enjoyed my time at Iroquois!



Refuge Reflections

Ariel Martinez, Hispanic Access Foundation Intern, returns for a second summer to fulfill her mission of connecting communities to the outdoors. Be sure to join us all summer as we hear from our interns about their work and experience. 

My name is Ariel Martinez and this is my second summer working on a refuge thanks to the Hispanic Access Foundation. I applied to the program again because I had such a great experience, that I wanted to continue that work and put the things I learned last summer to good use.

My first ever experience with environmental science was when I took the AP class in junior year of high school. Up until that point I had never considered making that a career path, largely because I hadn’t known it was an option. When I stopped to consider the reason for my ignorance, I realized it was because the field of environmental science did not have many people who looked like me, sounded like me, or had similar backgrounds to me. When I read about environmental science, or saw something related on television, the people in the spotlight were almost always white men.

That’s why I was so thrilled when I found out there was a program that was working to bridge that gap by bringing more Latinx people into the field, and giving them a platform where they can connect to the community. This program is important because it not only brings a fresh perspective to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but it also opens a pathway for other minorities to pursue the same kinds of experiences, studies, and careers in the future. I lead every outreach and education event hoping there will be even one person there who will leave the program and think, “I want to do that too,” or “I want to come here again,” which I think is the goal for both Hispanic Access Foundation and the Service as well.

I’m really excited to be working at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge this summer. It’s been a great experience so far. I helped run the kids fishing derby, which was a lot of fun. I was also able to lead a few sessions of a program on pelts and skulls at a field day for third graders and do some work with a pollinator garden in Buffalo this past week. I am looking forward to doing more programs and expanding the refuge’s network in the community. For Latino Conservation Week events, I have been in contact with the Boys and Girls Club in Rochester as well as the Division of Parks and Recreation in Buffalo to provide environmental education  programming and getting students outside.

Shining the Light on Endangered Species

Wildlife all over the world are rapidly declining and facing extinction. Many scientists believe that we are in middle of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction. In this continually altering world that we share with these unique species, every day is a chance to make a positive change to help the threatened and endangered species.  If you follow our social media, then one day that you surely did not miss was Endangered Species Day, which falls on the third Friday of May.


Endangered Species Day is a national celebration to recognize endangered species and their habitats, and to educate students and the public about their importance. There are over 1,400 species protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act alone. The Endangered Species Coalition (ESC) started this national day 12 years ago. Along with the celebration, the ESC holds the annual Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest. This year over 1,400 young artists from across the nation submitted artwork.


In Elkins, West Virginia, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Appalachian Forest Heritage Area (AFHA) AmeriCorps program, U.S. Forest Service, and WV Division of Natural Resources (DNR) hosted an Endangered Species Day event on May 20th. The event featured a day of fun, interactive games and activities that demonstrate the importance of threatened and endangered species and why they need our help. Participants could become endangered species biologist, take a walk through a giant inflatable bat cave, enjoy the artwork of young local students in an endangered species art show, or get their face painted like their favorite species. The celebration was kick-started by the Save Endangered Species Youth Art Contest- Elkins gallery opening and awards ceremony on May 19th.


As part of the 12th annual Endangered Species Day, young artists got involved to raise awareness of the decline of these important species by participating in the 2017 Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest. This year Elkins and the surrounding area had over 100 local young artists participate in the contest! Artworks from the participants of the local competition were also submitted to the national competition. Winners of the Elkins Art Contest were announced at an awards ceremony and gallery opening on May 19th. All submitted artwork was displayed at the Endangered Species Day event in Elkins on May 20th.


In conjunction to the Endangered Species Day event and art contest, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Field Office in Elkins held Endangered Species Day lessons for classrooms. Teachers could arrange to have an endangered species educator come to their classroom to present to the students about threatened and endangered species of West Virginia. During these lessons, students became actively engaged in the protection of threatened and endangered species by learning about conservation techniques that could be used at home. West Virginia species, such as the Virginia big-eared bat and Fanshell mussel, were highlighted in fun interactive games like Fungus Among Us. During the lessons students learned about the importance of these plants and animals in the ecosystem and understand why it is important to protect these species and their habitats.


To learn more about Endangered Species Day or about the Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest visit www.endangered.org/campaigns/endangered-species-day/