Tag Archives: Latino

Bienvenidos a McKinney NWR

Ivette first joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a Yale graduate and a summer intern through our Hispanic Access Foundation partnership. She’s now joined the team full time at Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, and is making great strides in connecting with the local Hispanic community in New Haven, CT.

The transition from my summer internship to working full-time at McKinney has been great. I am thankful for the supportive staff who constantly check-in with me and provide me with the necessary resources and guidance to succeed. As the New Haven Urban Wildlife Refuge Coordinator, my responsibilities include collaborating with partners such as Yale Peabody Museum and New Haven Parks, providing environmental education at local New Haven schools, establishing new connections with community organizations, and engaging underrepresented audiences. I love working primarily on the urban wildlife refuge partnership because every day I get to do something new. One day I’m helping cleanup an island, the next I’m attending a conference, and then I get to lead activities in Spanish at the Peabody. I am also very excited because McKinney has recently gone bilingual on Facebook. Check us out!

Earlier this fall, Ivette represented the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at ¡Fiesta Latina!, an annual event at the Yale Peabody Museum that celebrates Hispanic culture. The Museum has been an integral participant of the New Haven Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, established to connect urban communities with the National Wildlife Refuge System and nature. The event, held on October 8th, featured family activities, crafts and live music, and was attended by more than 2,250 visitors!


Ivette manned an interactive and informative station featuring pelts and bilingual information about Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mission.

The visitors loved learning about the animal pelts, tracks, and scat. It was a rare opportunity for many of them to feel the pelts of local CT wildlife. They also enjoyed learning the Spanish name of each animal (beaver-castor, fox-zorro, coyote-coyote, skunk-zorrillo, and raccoon-mapache). My favorite part was when a visitor refused to touch any of the pelts because she had a slight fear of the animals, but after chatting about the importance of protecting wildlife she felt comfortable enough to touch the pelts.


The majority of visitors at the event were unaware of the USFWS and the National Wildlife Refuge System, but once they heard about all the opportunities refuges have to offer they were very excited to learn about their local refuge. A lot of them brought home maps of the refuge and couldn’t believe they didn’t know about this hidden gem in their backyard. A lot of visitors mentioned that they were looking forward to bringing their families to view the salt marsh at Stewart B. McKinney.

¡Fiesta Latina! served as a great opportunity for Ivette and other Service employees to share our mission and invite Latino families to visit their local refuge. Since the event, Ivette and other members of McKinney NWR staff have participated in a number of community service events and received a number of inquiries about how the Service can tie in to events at local community and school organizations. Most recently, McKinney NWR hosted a Fall Foliage walk, and Ivetta assisted Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity with a cleanup event at Norwalk Shea Island.

Check back soon for an update from Michael Bonilla, another Hispanic Access Foundation superstar whose work has expanded at at Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership.

“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.

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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!

Reflections from a busy summer at Stewart B. McKinney NWR

by: Ivette Lopez

Ivette is one of our six Hispanic Access Foundation interns, doing an absolutely bang-up job at Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in New Haven, CT. As the interns wrap up the summer, we are sharing their reflections and highlighting their achievements across the Northeast Region.


Ivette (left) talks to a visitor at Cherry Ann St. Park in New Haven, CT

Here’s a bit about what Ivette’s been up to:

Earlier this summer I started working for Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge as a Hispanic Access Foundation intern, and it has been a great experience! My first week at the refuge consisted of intern training and then I transitioned into working at the Yale Peabody Museum doing community outreach and conservation work.

I am leading activities with Environmental Leaders for a group of New Haven high school students who are passionate about science and environmental justice, but also part of a demographic group typically underrepresented in STEM careers. I teach activities related to air and water quality and we’ll be collecting data on mercury in New Haven Harbor.

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Running through some data with the students

I also work closely with Outdoor CORPS, a pilot program designed to expose New Haven urban youth to outdoor education. I implement educational activities in urban and rural habitats focused on plants and animals, ecosystems, and the Service mission. I also help out in the Discovery Room, welcoming visitors and feeding the critters on display (including the poison dart frogs)!

I also recently began working with New Haven Parks and Recreation to bring Service programs and environmental education to the local summer camps. Every week, I attend 2-3 camps and lead them in activities related to environmental science and conservation. Last week we talked about habitats, ecosystems, and food webs and then used these ideas to play the game “Oh Deer!”, which the kids really enjoyed! This week I’ll work with local schoolyard habitats to identify invasive and non-invasive species and I’ll be at the Refuge to assist with environmental education for boy scouts.

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I am also developing wayside signs for Cherry Ann Street Park, a relatively new project that the Service and partner organizations helped establish about 2 years ago. This local park is where my Latino Conservation Action Week event was held on July 16th.


The entrance to Cherry Ann St Park was adorned with perennial plants courtesy of Urban Resource Initiative (Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies)

The area actually used to be a scrap yard for metal and other junk and has since been transformed into a beautiful community park where volunteers, Service staff and partners come out every weekend to work on new additions. So far, the space includes playgrounds, trails and two urban oasis gardens that attract a lot of local songbirds. Soon, a pollinator meadow will be seeded and the residents hope to install a splash pad and a community garden space.

We gathered on a Saturday morning at the park and planted some perennials near the park entrance, enjoyed lunch, and did a scavenger hunt. The plants were generously donated by the Urban Resource Initiative and planted with help from Community Greenspace grounds crews.

Miss Connie is a neighborhood resident and the visionary behind Cherry Ann Street Park. She wanted to create a safe space for the kids in the neighborhood, so she went to the mayor’s office every Thursday until her proposal to clean up the abandoned lot at the end of Cherry Ann Street was accepted. Throughout the morning, kids from the neighborhood came out to help her with the plantings, as they often do on weekends.


Miss Connie and Mr. Mike discuss perennial plantings with Max Webster (far left; URI)


Children from the neighborhood made decorative bricks for the garden.

Miss Connie and the kids have been known to perform this call-back while they’re working in the park together.

Who’s park is this?

Our park!


Join us next year for Latino Conservation Action Week!

That’s a wrap!