27 June 2020

A deeper look at biodiversity in California

Written by: Christina Tortosa

I started my internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife (FWS) Service in May 2020 as a part of a collaboration between the FWS and Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF).

Before starting the internship, I was concerned that the opportunity would be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, HAF and FWS worked diligently amidst the changing times and adapted their programs to provide this wonderful fellowship opportunity to students around the country using technology and teleworking. Similarly, to how the partnerships adapted to changing times, conservation and the listing of threatened and endangered species are adapting to new challenges including habitat loss, climate change, and science to understand species’ needs.

For my Fellowship position, I am working with the FWS Science Applications Department, where they focus on at-risk species conservation. The goal of the department is to use available science, resources, and partnerships to help prevent a species from being listed on the threatened or endangered species list. Some ways to accomplish this feat is by increasing protection and habitat for unique species. As part of my internship, I am helping develop a meta-analysis for at-risk species distribution using a species biodiversity distribution database from the California State Department of Fish and Wildlife. The biodiversity database highlights species richness, significant habitat connectivity, and climate change resilience. I am helping build a map query program for the state of California focusing on species biodiversity, where data can filtered based on a location in the state to list which type of species are present in that area, including at-risk, threatened, or endangered species. The goal of this map is to help FWS Partners Program decide on which conservation issues to focus on based on the species present in a certain area of California.

A significant part of my position requires the use of R Program, a computer coding application. R Program is a steep learning curve for me; however, I have a great teacher, who happens to be my supervisor at the FWS. In addition to using R, I am also importing data into ArcGIS mapping program, which allows us to see the results of the computer coding. This project's emphasis on biodiversity aligns perfectly with my passion for conservation on a landscape and species scale, and for collaborating with others on a common goal. The skills and experience I am gaining through my internship are priceless and ones that will help me in my environmental career.

In addition to the technical part of my internship, I am also meeting amazing people who work with FWS and HAF. This communication is made possible through different online meeting platforms for mentoring, collaboration, and introduction to different departments of the FWS. I am so grateful for this technology since working from home can at times feel isolating. Even though face to face interaction is irreplaceable, I look forward to using video chat to connect with others. Currently, I am more than a third of the way done with my fellowship, and I feel like the time has flown by. I am excited about the experience I am gaining and sadden to know this fellowship will end soon. I will miss the comradery and connection with others but hope to keep up these relationships in the future.

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP

Location: Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office

About Us

Hispanic Access Foundation connects Latinos and others with partners and opportunities to improve lives and create an equitable society.

Contact Us