Tag Archives: intern

“I’m a HAF intern but I learned a whole lot”

Our Urban Program stems from the important need to understand what factors may facilitate or inhibit people in urban settings from connecting with wildlife and nature. Our interns this summer through Hispanic Access Foundation have been instrumental in helping us connect with Latino communities across the region from Eastern Massachusetts to Baltimore. They’ve been to city parks, neighborhoods, community gardens and meetings, schools and summer camps helping urban residents find, appreciate and care for nature in their cities, neighborhoods and beyond.

Thanks & congratulations to our 2016 cohort of interns for all their hard work and dedication. You’ll be a tough act to follow!

We recently gathered the interns, their supervisors, and leadership from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Hispanic Access Foundation for a final close-out to the summer.


We were hosted by Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and their great team of staff and volunteers

Each intern gave a brief presentation on their summer experiences and provided feedback for all parties who mentored and supervised them.


Michael Bonilla provided weekly environmental education programs on wildlife found in vernal pools,  or as he calls them, “wicked big puddles” at the Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex. He seamlessly connected with members of the Providence Latino community and provided a warm welcome to folks new or unaware of the National Wildlife Refuge System.


Amber Betances took a trolley and two buses —  a 90 minute commute to John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge each morning. She connected with Philadelphia residents at community meetings and has shed some light on barriers to visiting the refuge, such as transportation. Her experience this summer will undoubtedly contribute to her budding career as a landscape architect.


Sabrina held her first bird, gave her first trolley tour, caught her first fish and kissed a lot of unsuspecting animals at Paxutent Research Refuge. More seriously though, she may have experienced the most professional and personal growth in the whole group and took all of those “firsts” completely in stride.

I had the opportunity to lead my own program called Flutter by, Butterfly for children ages five to seven. I focused on the basics of the butterfly — what/how they eat, their life cycle, and we also went on a short butterfly walk. Overall, running programs at the visitor center has been a great experience and I would definitely do it again!


Ariel provided some much appreciated environmental education for youth in Springfield at Forest Park. She joined ReGreen Springfield with a Skulls & Pelts program that allowed kids to explore native wildlife like bears and bobcats (and imaginary bob-bears and beaver-cats and whatever else they came up with).

If I had to choose one thing that empowered me the most during my internship, it would be the outreach and education work I did. I was able to connect with kids, younger and older, and get them excited, involved and talking about nature. I wanted the kids to see someone like me doing this kind of work and realize that it’s possible.


Wilson shared his love for birds with the general public and led a bunker tour in Spanish for a Latino family at Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge. As a key member of the Visitor Services team, he welcomed new and recurring visitors to the Refuge and contributed to maintenance and field work whenever possible.


Ivette connected with a broad base of New Haven residents at the Yale Peabody Museum, and made guest appearances with Boy Scout and summer camp groups. She also put together a great event for Latino Conservation Week on behalf of Stewart B. McKinney NWR.


As a final project, the interns were tasked with the responsibility of assessing a potential “kayak trail” for visitors to Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. They also accompanied Refuge staff for an afternoon kestrel release and some bog turtle tracking.

kestrel release.png

The interns participated in a kestrel release at Great Swamp NWR

Thanks & congrats again to our interns for a job well done. We can’t wait to see what you do next!

What working in Visitor Services means to me

by Wilson Andres Acuña

Wilson is wrapping up his summer as an intern at the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex. One of six interns co-advised by the U.S. Fish and


Wilson & a damselfly

Wildlife Service and the Hispanic Access Foundation, Wilson planned and executed environmental education programs throughout the summer. His bilingual English and Spanish programs focused on birding (a passion of his) as well as local history, making Refuge activities more accessible to the Eastern Massachusetts Latino community. Wilson reflects on his experience in visitor services below.

Guess what these things have in common:

  • A grand opening event for a new building
  • Construction of a wheel-chair accessible trail
  • Coordinating volunteers
  • A series of weekly birding walks

Answer: They’re just a few of the many different activities and projects I was able to participate in during my time as a visitor services intern at the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex. What does a visitor services employee do? That is a question that I often had to answer whenever someone asked me what I do for work. I would usually respond with something along the lines of “a little bit of everything.” Although there is some truth to that statement, there is a lot more to it! I found that it was necessary to take a closer look at the work I did in order to come up with a more satisfactory answer.


Wilson keeps things tidy about the refuge & helps out with some of our routine maintenance work.

In my experience, working in visitor services means sharing my knowledge and love of nature with our visitors, many of whom are visiting the refuge for the first time. It means helping a 14-year-old girl see a pileated woodpecker — the # 1 species on her bird-sighting wish list. Speaking Spanish (much to the delight of our Latino visitors), creating a welcoming environment, and answering questions. It means building a nature trail accessible to people of all abilities. Finally, I make sure that visitor areas are tidy and information kiosks are up-to-date and fully stocked with maps and educational materials.


Leading a Latino family of four on a Spanish-language tour of a historical bunker located on Refuge property.

More than anything, I’ve left work every day knowing I did my part to put a smile on our visitors’ faces and encourage them to come and visit us again.

Stay tuned for the next couple weeks as more of our interns reflect on their summers in the National Wildlife Refuge System across the Northeast.

Urban Surveys: Get involved with Nature

From left to right we have Logan Kline, Sarah Carpe, Sheldon Mason and Adler (AJ) Pruitt

From left to right we have Logan Kline, Sarah Carpe, Sheldon Mason and Adler (AJ) Pruitt

Today’s post comes from Sheldon Mason, one of our Masonville Cove Baltimore Urban Conservation & Education Interns, in conjunction with the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD.

I have always loved turtles, they are by far my favorite reptile. Recently, I have had the opportunity to help monitor the population of one of our native turtle species: the eastern box turtle. The eastern box turtle is listed as a vulnerable species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and as a result population surveys are being conducted at Patuxent Research Refuge.

One of the many box turtles kept in the veterinary house at Patuxent

One of the many box turtles kept in the veterinary house at Patuxent

Where should we look for box turtles? Sandy Spencer, a wildlife biologist on the refuge, says that they can literally be anywhere. Out in the forest at Patuxent Research Refuge, we were searching for box turtles as part of a survey, led by wildlife biologists. As we explored the forest in search of box turtles, we looked next to rocks and logs, places we thought were suitable habitat. When we finally found a box turtle, which was located in a forest full of ferns, we had to write a description of the turtle, details of its surrounding environment, as well as other data.

In order to mark the turtle, we had to drill holes on the edge of the shell and we notched the side. There was a key we used to notch them in a certain way so the turtles can be assigned a number. I asked Sandy why she was doing this survey and she explained that this survey was conducted years ago and they wanted to compare the present and past populations. This was the first time I have ever met a biologist and I was very surprised that they were in a field more than a lab or an office.

A baby box turtle that has not been notched yet

A baby box turtle that has not been notched yet

The work out in the field reminded me of the Bioblitz that we had at Masonville Cove. A BioBlitz is an annual event at Masonville where participants record all the wildlife they find that day and upload it to iNaturalist. Working at the reptile station at the Bioblitz, I realized that the survey that we were conducting on iNaturalist was similar to the one at Patuxent. iNaturalist is a citizen science app, a program used to share wildlife observations with the scientific community. The Bioblitz was promoting citizen science and I was starting to see how something as user friendly as iNaturalist can help scientists learn more about wildlife populations. The whole idea behind citizen science is to encourage all people to be a part of real scientific studies in their own environment and iNaturalist is a great application to get people involved.

I am very fortunate to have had experiences within a career path that interests me. While we have had other experiences during this internship program, this one may have personally made the greatest impact in my career choices as well as how I interact with wildlife.