Tag Archives: urban refuge

Meet our Hispanic Access Foundation Interns @ a Refuge near you!


Interns, Hispanic Access Foundation, and Service staff meet at Patuxent Research Refuge for orientation and a nature walk. Credit: Maite Arce, HAF

We are proud to announce our partnership with the Hispanic Access Foundation in an effort to connect Latino youth with careers in natural resource conservation. The U.S. is projected to become more racially and ethnically diverse in the coming years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 29 percent of Americans in 2060 are projected to be Hispanic – that’s more than one quarter of the total population! As part of the Service’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program, interns co-advised by the Hispanic Access Foundation have been placed at seven national wildlife refuges throughout the Northeast, and tasked to reach out to communities near their refuge and organize a conservation-minded event for Latino Conservation Week. Initiated by the Hispanic Access Foundation, Latino Conservation Week (July 16 – 24) is an annual celebration of outdoor recreation and the permanent protection of land, wildlife, water and clean air. Latino communities come together by getting outside to go hiking, camping, or simply by learning about conservation efforts in the communities and participating in activities that protect our natural resources.

Our interns will gain hands-on experience in community outreach, interpretation, and conservation, trained by natural resource professionals and mentored by staff from the Hispanic Access Foundation. The ultimate goal is to recruit inspired, skilled, culturally, ethnically and economically diverse young people into natural resources careers.

Please join us in welcoming our first cohort of Hispanic Access Foundation interns. We will be following them throughout the summer as they share experiences from the field:

Wilson Andres Acuña @ Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge                                  Wilson, 28, was born and raised in Colombia and moved to the U.S. at age 17. He has completed a Bachelor of Science in biology and environmental studies from Tufts University and will be based at Assabet National Wildlife Refuge in Sudbury, Mass. 20160604_125833He currently works as an environmental educator for the Massachusetts Audubon Society and is a member of the visitor services and education staff at the Summer Star Wildlife Sanctuary. Wilson’s assignment at Assabet will involve both public outreach and field work, including educational programming for children, bird surveys, horseshoe crab tagging, and coordinating volunteers .

Ariel Martinez @ Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge 
Ariel, 19, is a sophomore at Smith College pursuing a degree in Paula Ariel Martinez - FWS photoenvironmental science and policy. She feels passionately about equitable access to the outdoors and wants to learn more about community engagement and conservation field work. Ariel’s assignment will support the refuge biologists, visitor services, and maintenance staff.  Ariel will be serving urban communities across four states, including Springfield, Mass.

Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge
4365434338_728b9b0862_o Wallkill serves the greater New York City metropolitan area, but it is in new Jersey. This intern’s assignment is heavily focused on species surveys and invasive species control. He/she will be based out of Great Swamp national Wildlife Refuge in Basking Ridge, NJ.

Michael Bonilla @Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex                              Michael, 20, is originally from the Dominican Republic. He has a passion for agriculture and has worked in the maintenance of his family farm. Currently, he is a senior at the UniversityMichael Bonilla - FWS photo of Rhode Island studying environmental and natural resource economics and Spanish. Michael completed an environmental fellowship in 2014 and worked at a research farm with different organic pest control methods. This summer, he will connect the general public with nature by engaging them with arts and education at urban parks in the Providence, R.I. metropolitan area.

Ivette López @Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge
Ivette, 22, is originally from San José, Calif. but recently graduated from Yale University with a B.S. in geology and geophysics and Spanish. She hopes to engage the USFWS bio picpublic with the importance of conserving Earth’s landscapes for future generations. After this internship, she plans to apply to graduate school and pursue a PhD in geological engineering. Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge serves the greater New Haven area, where Ivette will be splitting her time between the Peabody Museum and New Haven Parks.

Amber Betances @ John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge 
Amber, 22, just graduated from Rutgers University with a B.S. in Landscape Architecture, and is currently pursuing her Masters in the same Amber Betances - FWS photofield. After graduate school, she will focus her career on community engagement and equitable access to green spaces for traditionally underrepresented groups. John Heinz serves the Philadelphia community, where Amber will assess community needs and work with visitor services staff to build educational programming.

Sabrina Nuñez @ Patuxent Research Refuge
Sabrina Nunez - FWS photo
Patuxent, in Laurel, Md., serves both the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas. Sabrina, 19, is a Washington D.C. native and a rising junior at Florida International University where she’s pursuing a B.S. in marine biology. She aspires to become a marine mammalogist and would like to focus on dolphin and sea turtle conservation. Sabrina will assist biologists in the field with trail maintenance and invasive species removal. She will also participate in environmental education programs and community outreach.

This internship program will last for approximately 12 weeks. For more information, click here.

Check back for a recap of our group orientation at the nation’s capital — from Patuxent Research Refuge to the Lincoln Memorial and beyond.

Nature is the best medicine


That’s us mid-trail! Jeannette is on the left, that’s me in middle and Mariana on the right.

Even having an office at a national wildlife refuge, you can sometimes forget how amazing the places, wildlife and people that you’re working for are, even when they’re right outside the door. I’m fairly new to Philly and I’ve been saying forever that I’m going to go out and explore John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum more, and this month, thanks to a run challenge, I’ve been doing it. Yesterday was the perfect day- a busy day at the office coupled with a crisp spring breeze and partly cloudy sky. After work, I grabbed Jeannette Guess, the president of the Friends of Heinz Refuge and Mariana Bergerson, the deputy refuge manager, and we hit the trail!

Besides dropping some serious knowledge on me about the history of the refuge, I learned that these two ladies are the most amazing nature photographers. Either that, or I need a new phone! Every few hundred feet, we would comment on how beautiful the refuge was and how insane it was that we were both a few hundred yards from an international airport and a bald eagle’s nest. Keep reading to check out an awesome audio clip Jeanntte took of spring peepers!


One of my favorites of Jeannette’s great photos!

On our five mile trip, we didn’t see much wildlife so late in the afternoon, but we caught some beautiful sunset shots and saw a bunch of visitors going for a walk, running, biking, birdwatching and taking photos. They had the same idea we did.

I might be late to the party, but I had to share this experience from yesterday. The time out on the refuge was better than any time on my sofa. It shows just how important it is to conserve these urban green spaces.

From Jeannette…


What do you do when you’ve had a grueling week filled with deadlines, lots of meetings and extended workdays? You grab two employees after work and hit the trails. What an amazing five mile journey with Mariana and Tylar. We visited the new boardwalk, took some amazing photos and enjoyed every step as we made our way through this beautiful refuge.  I’m looking forward to the next Heinz Healthy Treks journey. We came up with a name to keep these walks going and maybe start them as a weekly event in the community! Below is one of my favorite photos.


Sunset over the impoundment.

And here is an audio clip of spring peepers. We were about 200 feet from a train station.

From Mariana…


John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tincum has been an important place in the southwest Philadelphia community for many years. I’ve been lucky enough to call this place home/work (the two can’t really be separated!) for the last six years. Every time that I get the opportunity to explore the refuge, it is amazing that every bend in the trail offers a new and memorable experience. Whether it is a beautiful sunset as I shared last night with coworkers and friends, an encounter with enthusiastic visitors seeing the bald eagle nest for the first time, or finding a sense of solitude in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city, the refuge provides a sense of stability in an ever changing world.


So artistic.

It’s safe to say we all love John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. I’m so glad our work is to conserve this special place, and introduce more people to it’s pure awesomeness!

Monarchs in the Classroom

Autumn is full swing at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum. While the leaves are changing and the temperatures are cooling, our monarch butterflies are continuing their 3,000 mile journey to Mexico. On their great trek, they will encounter tough storms, ocean winds, cold temperatures and more. This inspiring butterfly has caught the interest of local 4th graders and their teachers at Penrose Elementary and they show how monarchs can be used as an interdisciplinary tool in the classroom!

Earlier this month, we held an event with several partners at Penrose Elementary to designate the Philadelphia Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership. During the event, each student learned how to tag and release butterflies. Having experienced these beautiful  insects first hand, students at Penrose are incorporating their memorable experience of releasing butterflies into their work assignments for class. The monarch butterfly can be easily adapted to subjects across the curriculum, including Language Arts, Math, Science, Art and Geography.

Students at Penrose have been reading poems and writing essays about monarchs as part of their Language Arts assignments. Below, a student uses details from the poem to reflect on its meaning and how the poem emphasizes the importance of being happy with who they are. Using a personal experience and tying it into language arts can be extremely helpful and allow the students to better relate to conservation and nature.


An essay that cites details from the poem and draws conclusions.

Monarch migration can also be adapted into a math or geography lesson. Using map skills and identifying migration routes can help students visualize the United States and the surrounding countries. They can also get an idea of how far away 3,000 miles is and where Mexico is in relation to Philadelphia. Students also used butterflies to solve more complex math equations and as an inspiration for art.


A water color monarch!


A math problem solved using the four operations.

While insects and butterflies are commonly used as a lesson in science, Penrose Elementary students have shown how monarchs can easily be used in other subjects as well. This truly shows how invaluable the story of the monarch is and how it can have a lasting impact on young students.