Growing up, I was always that one kid that carried around biology books about sharks and reptiles and took every opportunity I had to talk anyone’s ear off about the amazing facts I was learning every day. I would say that I cringe thinking back on that but, if I’m honest, I still do the same thing except that the books are now podcasts and YouTube documentaries. Looking back, it’s crazy how close I was to pursuing a medical degree until my brother reminded me of my true passion with the simple words: “Don’t you follow 30 shark pages on Instagram?”
I got to build on my passion for marine life by completing my master’s degree in marine science about this time last year. During my time in grad school, I thought I would go the research route but discovered environmental education through an internship with a state park and quickly changed my mind. The best part about that internship was that, besides leading hands-on educational programs and caring for live snakes, I was able to also apply my background as a Honduran by creating and running environmental programs and surveys for the Hispanic population in the area.
I’ve just finished my second week as a HAF intern at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in Seymour, Indiana. Muscatatuck is managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and, as someone who has never worked in the federal service before, it has been interesting to get a first glimpse at how the system works. The amount of staff is lower than usual due to the pandemic but, everyone I’ve met so far is very passionate about the refuge’s mission – “to restore, preserve, and manage a mix of forest, wetland, and grassland habitat for fish, wildlife, and people”. My job will be to increase the scope of the word “people” in that mission statement by finding ways in which to include the area’s increasing Hispanic population in the refuge’s educational and recreational activities. I’ve been translating a lot of brochures and trail signs, brainstorming ideas for environmental events that could be presented in Spanish, and making connections with the community in town (churches, visitor centers, hopefully finding some groups to play soccer with too!).
I remember going to so many parks and zoos in Honduras and how much learning about my surroundings there helped foster a deep love, not only for my country, but for my world. Just a few weeks ago, I earned my scuba diving license and got to dive in an artificial reef in Panama City! Being able to experience the beauty of the natural world for yourself is not only fun and exciting; it also makes conserving that beauty a personal issue to you. I’m thrilled to be working with HAF this summer to help realize their vision of making these types of experiences more accessible to the Latino community and, in doing so, raising up a whole new community of passionate environmental stewards!
Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service
Location: Muscatatuck NWR