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Highlighting Hispanic Heritage Month: Endangered Species Intern

Written on: September 22nd, 2023 in Natural ResourcesOutreach

By Alondra Ureña, MANO Project Fellow with the Hispanic Access Foundation

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we partnered with the Hispanic Access Foundation’s MANO Project (My Access to Network Opportunities) to share Latino communities experiences and work with natural resources. Conservation or environmental jobs, relationships with nature, climate change – the MANO Fellows have highlighted Hispanic and Latino stories, opportunities and more.

The last few months have brought me a myriad of new experiences as an Endangered Species intern at the Sacramento Fish & Wildlife Office, from getting started on my internship deliverables to visiting my first wildlife refuge (I’ve now visited 4!), to celebrating Latino Conservation Week. I’ve participated in a 3-day training on Effect Pathway Manager (EPM), for the Service’s Information for Consultation and Planning (IPaC) system, helping to streamline technical assistance to agency partners. This is a large focus of my work during my internship, and I am in the process of assessing resource needs and collecting conservation measures for vernal pool fairy shrimp. I will input data into EPM to analyze the effects of human urbanization and development in the fairy shrimp’s habitats. It’s been a joy learning about vernal pools and fairy shrimp’s unique life cycle through a literature research extravaganza; it’s even more special knowing that I get to use my research to help protect these endangered Anostraca.

Vernal pool fairy shrimp (Branchinecta lynchi) (Photo Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).

In between readings and research, I’ve participated in side quests that I could have only dreamed of as a young kid, and which have elevated my internship experience. I was lucky enough to attend Latino Conservation Week 2023 at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. I met other Hispanic Access Foundation interns and the MANO program associate, Yashira M. Valentin Feliciano. The night before the event, I went to my first baseball game in Minneapolis for the Twins vs. White Sox, the Twins won! Yashira and I met early the day of the event to set up our table with flyers, MANO swag including Latino Conservation Week 2023 stickers and tote bags, plus a temporary tattoo station. The temporary tattoo station was a hit: everyone, from children to moms to artists, were interested in representing the beautiful Latino Conservation Week 2023 emblem. We all enjoyed live music, performances from traditional Aztec dancers, and empanadas from a local food truck. The trip was an experience I’ll never forget, especially with how meaningful it was to celebrate ten years of the event with my Latinx community and my first time in the Midwest.

I’ve also expanded my fieldwork skills. I supported Dr. Jaymme Marty in setting pitfall traps and relocating over 60 endangered California tiger salamanders at Travis Air Force Base. I’ve participated in two field visits to Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge for Lange’s metalmark butterfly surveys. We observed and identified other butterfly species including the California sisters, mournful duskywing, and skippers, but sadly not Lange’s metalmark butterfly. Out on the dunes, I felt an internal surge of peace as I realized I hadn’t spent as much time outdoors like this since I was a kid playing in the park with my primos and primas every weekend. When was the last time I enjoyed the outdoors, not thinking about watching a show after work or what I’d cook for dinner, but letting myself feel the sun and get lost staring at a butterfly? It’s been very healing for my inner child and after months of staying indoors for the pandemic and working in retail, the last few weeks have been a breath of fresh air. It’s been a sign of true alignment with my purpose in conservation as well as a reminder for me to never be afraid to be an intern, start over, and rediscover myself, my passions, and mi comunidad.

Alondra handling California tiger salamanders (Ambystoma californiense) at Travis Air Force Base.