Tag Archives: Urban Wildlife Conservation Program

Our wild summer

Few experiences can rival spending a summer working on a national wildlife refuge. In partnership with the Hispanic Access Foundation, the Connecting Latinos to Natural Resource Conservation program has provided this experience through a highly competitive application process.  Last summer, 11 college students participated in 12-week internships to help connect them to work in conservation. The interns were introduced to careers in natural resources at seven wildlife refuges and participated in training that included real-world public education, interpretation, communications, conservation, and wildlife rehabilitation.

Meet the interns!

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2018 HAF Intern Ingrid Chavez, 23 holds a fish she reeled in.

Ingrid Chavez, 23 – San Francisco, CA

Refuge: Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge

Interests: Hiking, traveling, Bay Area sports, animals, Latin American news

Dream Job: Working in conservation

“…We take for granted all that our natural environment does for us. We need to protect our natural resources for future generations, especially for communities that are disproportionately affected by environmental injustices… The HAF internship has taught me to be flexible and open to new experiences. I have worked on a variety of projects from environmental education to water chestnut picking to working with endangered Puritan tiger beetles.”

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2018 HAF Intern Daniel Correa, 24.

Daniel Correa, 24 – Old Bridge, NJ/ Medellin, Colombia

Refuge: Lenape National Wildlife Refuge Complex –  Great Swamp, Wallkill River, Cherry Valley, Shawangunk Grassland National Wildlife Refuges

Interests: Hiking, traveling and exploring new places domestically and abroad, learning about international news and developments

Dream Job: Work as a state or federal official that focuses on environmental restoration and mapping

“…I believe that protecting natural resources is connected with the well-being of communities. We can ensuring that communities throughout our country have good living conditions, and are be able to enjoy the outdoors by protecting our natural resources and promoting good sustainable ideas… The HAF Internship has taught me about the importance of becoming part of the community in which you would like to support and connect. Putting time and effort into that community carries a lot of importance and outreach is key to connecting with that community.”

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HAF Intern Oscar Hernandez, 18

Oscar Hernandez, 18 – Lakeville, MN

Refuge: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Interests: Wildlife and family

Dream Job: Urban outreach specialist

“…Being in nature is a great place to just be in and explore. Nature is beautiful and I want other people to enjoy it for a long time. The HAF internship taught me to reinforce my belief that the work that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is important and that conservation is a widespread issue; it impacts the quality of everyone living on this Earth.”

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2018 HAF Intern Cindy Garcia, 22 from The Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Cindy Garcia, 22 – New Haven, CT

Refuge: Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex

Interests: Environmental humanities, especially political geography and indigenous ecological knowledge

Dream Job: Professor of non-western environmental history

“…It’s about fostering profound experiences with nature on a societal level. I believe that they make a difference in our environmental ethics and stewardship, which is critical in this day in age. As an environmental educator, I do my best to have kids explore their local environment through a variety of sensory activities. This approach can help minimize the fear of dirt, the disgust of insects, and the rejection of unappealing objects. While it’s hard to quantify how much my work positively influences these children, personally it’s the amount of effort that matters… The HAF internship has taught me the importance of building relationships in order to accomplish a common goal. I believe relationships are meant to foster creativity and intersect ideas that would facilitate that process of accomplishing it. For instance, Providence Playcorps staff and I shared an interest in using play as a means to activate Providence’s neighborhoods. They relied on me teach groups of children about nature, while I relied on them to send me to different local parks. While the process of meeting and coordinating was not easy, at the end of the day the people who benefit most are the children.”

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HAF intern Jorge Abraham Lopez Trejo

Jorge Abraham Lopez Trejo, 26 – Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico

Refuge: Patuxent Research Refuge

Interests: Environmental education, environmental justice, Latino empowerment, urban planning. sustainable development. I love plants and history too.

Dream Job: Working with communities to develop green sustainable spaces that fulfills the community needs.

“I want to make sure that future generations have a planet to enjoy, clean air to breathe, fresh water to drink, wildlife to be amazed, and nature to be inspired. Environmental conservation with education are our biggest allies in this battle for our planet… The HAF internship has taught me to never give up! Perseverance and flexibility were major key players during my internship. Speak your truth, tell your story, connect with people and listen. It only takes one action, little or big to inspire a change; be the change, be the answer, be the solution.”

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HAF intern Gabriel Jimenez

Gabriel Jimenez, 31 – Saginaw, MI

Refuge: Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

Interests: Community service, mentoring youth, fishing, hunting, any outdoor related activity

Dream Job: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer

“It is bigger than who I am. What I do now though, matters. I do this for my children’s children and do it for their best interest. We must all decide what is best for the environment and continue to keep protecting our natural resources… The HAF internship has taught me additional knowledge of the many different career paths within the FWS and networked with many FWS professionals. I believe it’s one of my biggest things I value most from this internship.”

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2018 HAF Intern Kelly Vera, 22, holding a goose.

Kelly Vera, 22 – Toms River, NJ

Refuge: Lenape National Wildlife Refuge Complex –  Great Swamp, Wallkill River, Cherry Valley, Shawangunk Grassland National Wildlife Refuges

Interests: Reading, writing, hiking, and thrifting

Dream Job: A writer for National Geographic

“If there is one thing I love to quote it’s “If you think the economy is more important than the environment, try holding your breath while you count your money.” The earth and it’s endless giving of supplies is what gives us life everyday… No matter how tired I am or how overwhelmed I may feel from the work, I never quit because this is my passion. It is much greater than myself and the work could never keep me from conservation and environmental work.”

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HAF intern Gabrielle Perez.

Gabrielle Perez, 19 – New York, NY

Refuge: John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge

Interests: Environmental policy, conservation, environmental education, women’s empowerment

Dream Job: Being the head of the EPA!

“…I know that without a healthy natural environment, every single living thing is at risk of having having seriously damaging health issues. Our well-being depends on the well-being of the planet more than many people realize and I just want to help people become more aware of not only their connection to, but there dependence on nature!.. The HAF internship taught me that it is important to help people love and appreciate nature before hitting them with the hard and scary facts about what’s going on with the planet.”

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HAF intern Stephanie Melara.

Stephanie Melara, 22 – Elizabeth, NJ

Refuge: Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge

Interests: Animation, marine biology, wood working

Dream Job: Researcher studying deep sea hydrothermal vents

“…it is simply a responsibility. As an adult it is my responsibility to care of the place I call home and to make sure I am leaving a suitable, beautiful environment for all the other adults who will come after me… The HAF internship taught me that everything you get out of a job, a hobby or a passion is highly dependent on what you put in. This means that anyone and everyone can make a difference, if they are willing to put in the effort.”

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

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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.