Tag Archives: Hispanic Access Foundation

Spreading My Wings

Guest blogger and Hispanic Access Foundation intern, Maribel Juarez is soaring to new heights as an environmental steward and passionate conservationists. Follow our interns all summer as they share their conservation stories from the field!

Growing up in Bridgeton, NJ, I had always envisioned myself becoming someone with a title. What title you ask? Easy, a doctor. I knew I wanted to become something meaningful to the world. While I discovered becoming a doctor was not a fit for me, I found happiness in science and I focused my energy in a new direction. The environment.

I had always been an advocate for the environment. Being involved in environmental clubs, doing cleanups and even outreaching to my fellow peers about the importance of conserving energy.  Realizing in a young age that there is something that is changing our planet, for the worse. I was fortunate to realize this change in profession just in time to apply for this internship and blessed enough to take part in it. I am very thankful for the Hispanic Access Foundation and U.S. Fish & Wildlife for giving me this opportunity.The opportunity to spread my wings and find my path in life. To meet amazing people I would never thought of running into in this lifetime.

The women in all the fields that I have come across during this internship are unbelievably amazing. You, are on the reason why the little girl in me is here.  Reaching out and taking a chance on something I deeply care about. And for that THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. The things I have witnessed and became part of in this internship vary in many things. From horseshoe surveying late in the night in Cape May, NJ to distinguishing different trees species for a restoration of forests across Bombay Hook’s National Refuge in Delaware. I have done the unimaginable for a Mexican-American girl from Bridgeton, NJ. And I know there is more to come.

My goal for this summer is to at least have an idea of what profession I want to be in. In addition, I aspire to bring more attention to conserving the environment. With Latino Conservation Week around the corner I will have the chance to do so. I will let you know what I have in mind for that week in the near future.Until then, I hope you would join me in this journey, of me spreading my wings and learning how to fly. Eventually inspiring others to do the same.

Springfield Hosts First Ever Community BioBlitz

“I work with the Sustainable Springfield Urban Refuge Partnership, and today we have our first ever BioBlitz for the city of Springfield!” exclaims Dave Sagan, Private Lands Partners Biologist with Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge. In partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, ReGreen Springfield, the Springfield Science Museum, and experts and naturalists from the state of Massachusetts, the city of Springfield hosted its first BioBlitz in Abbey Brook on Thursday, July 13, 2017.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service employees and interns pause for a group photo at the 2017 Springfield BioBlitz. Photo by ReGreen Springfield.

The purpose of the BioBlitz is to engage the local community in collecting data on the flora and fauna found in their neighborhood, specifically Abbey Brook behind the Springfield Renaissance School. In collaboration with host partners, participants from the Springfield community identified, counted, measured, photographed, and recorded information about the species they discovered.

Several groups of Renaissance School students had the opportunity to participate in the BioBlitz, where they were introduced to wildlife species in their community. “It’s pretty exciting to see folks that are actually coming and seeing Abbey Brook for the first time, whether it be youth or an older person, but especially youth to see them really experience nature first hand. A lot of folks see the trees and they see the woods, but they don’t take the time to go out and adventure into them. Today the BioBlitz partners will take them into the woods to teach them about the things that live in Abbey Brook, and point out what they might look for the next time they visit. The opportunity to come back and explore and look at other natural areas in the city is critical and important,” says Dave Bloniarz with U.S. Forest Service and ReGreen Springfield.

The NorthWoods Youth Conservation Corps participated in the BioBlitz, and have completed restoration projects in Abbey Brook. Photo by Kelsey Mackey.

“It’s really a cool engagement throughout the community, not only here at the Renaissance School but also the surrounding neighbors to see this little gem they have right in their backyard,” says Dave Sagan. The BioBlitz not only contributes critical data to the scientific community, but also exposes the Springfield community to natural areas within their city, often for the first time. “We found frogs, a turtle, and are also looking at some of the trees and plants that I didn’t know about, and what they do. I think that’s pretty cool,” says Savioie Mohown, a Renaissance School student and BioBlitz participant.

“This is my first BioBlitz and so far it’s been incredible. I got to meet kids from different areas, and working with partners has been amazing. Everyone is so knowledgeable, and they provide learning and education to today’s youth. I’m hoping the BioBlitz will continue to happen every year, it’s a great experience and an amazing opportunity to be able to attend,” says Crystal Leckie, Hispanic Access Foundation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Visitor Services intern.

By the end of the BioBlitz, partners and participants successfully identified 97 bird, amphibian, reptile, and plant species! Many participants left with a greater understanding and appreciation for wildlife and natural areas in their community. The success of the BioBlitz species count exemplifies the incredible diversity of wildlife found within urban areas, and provides a unique opportunity for community members to learn about the wildlife in their own neighborhood.

Click here for more great stories like these from fellow Hispanic Access Foundation interns!

Reflecting on Latino Conservation Week

Over the last two weeks, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to work in the Service’s Northeast regional office in External Affairs (EA). My primary focus during my time in EA was writing blog posts for this blog. I am especially proud to have covered Latino Conservation Week for my first authored blog post, as part of my personal mission is to engage, educate, and inspire people of all ethnicities to appreciate and conserve wildlife.

Latino Conservation Week, a Hispanic Access Foundation initiative, is of paramount importance for providing underrepresented communities with opportunities to connect with the environment. I truly believe that a passion for conservation is developed through personal experiences with nature, and Hispanic Access Foundation interns work to develop and execute events to foster this development. I was fortunate to have been able to attend two events during the week hosted by fellow interns Ivette Lopez and Michael Bonilla.

I visited the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Connecticut for Ivette Lopez’s “Explorando la Naturaleza: New Haven Community Visit to Outer Island” event. For many of the 36 LEAP summer camp kids, traveling to Outer Island via boat was a first time experience. Their bravery and excitement was an inspiring way to kickoff the day.

Ivette Lopez pauses for a photo with participants who just collected crabs for the first time! Photo by Kelsey Mackey.

Upon arrival, the kids participated in a birding workshop where they learned to use binoculars to identify bird species that inhabit the island. Additionally, the kids learned how to sample water and test for water quality parameters, including pH. My favorite part of the day was when the kids were asked to collect crabs from the beach. Many of the participants had never had the opportunity to see crabs up close, never mind touch them! At first there were many screams and shrieks as kids got close to touching the crabs, but after just minutes they were eager to collect as many crabs as possible. It was extremely heartening and fulfilling to witness the transformation in these kids, in just a matter of minutes! They went from being genuinely afraid of these sea creatures to enthusiastically moving rocks to uncover the biggest crab they could find. Being able to witness their shift in perspective toward wildlife was a true honor, and instilled an incredible sense of pride in me to be able to be a part of such a powerful movement- Latino Conservation Week!

I also visited Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge in support of Michael Bonilla’s event, “Enseñame a Pescar: Providence Community Visit to Kettle Pond / Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge”. Michael led local families and Providence YWCA kids on guided walks around Kettle Pond, where participants learned to identify and distinguish native plant species, amphibians, and birds, many of which they had never seen before. Michael showed the kids how to use binoculars, and how to “silently” walk through the forest in search of birds. It was especially great to see the kids struggle to contain their immense excitement each time a bird was spotted, as they clearly wanted to jump for joy! It really exemplified how enthusiastic and passionate they were about seeing a different bird species for the first time, but also their ability to recognize the importance of respecting the birds’ environment as not to disturb it. They understood that minimizing disturbance was for the mutual benefit of both the bird and themselves, an invaluable lesson to encompass at such a young age on coexisting with wildlife. It was an imperative reminder that today’s youth are the future of conservation, and experiences like these help inspire them to love and appreciate nature, and to work to protect it throughout their lifetime.

Michael Bonilla leads a guided bird walk. Photo by Kelsey Mackey.

It’s opportunities like these that connect people with the natural world, and inspire them to become environmental stewards to ensure a future where people can have these same experiences with nature. For the participants, the Latino Conservation Week events instilled excitement toward interacting with the environment, and created positive, lasting memories for years to come. Thank you Ivette and Michael for bringing these opportunities to the New Haven and Providence communities, and for highlighting the Latino passion for the outdoors, role in conservation, and improving the lives for this generation and the next!

Follow these incredible interns all summer as they share their stories of conservation and outreach!