Over the last two weeks, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to work in the Service’s Northeast regional office in External Affairs (EA). My primary focus during my time in EA was writing blog posts for this blog. I am especially proud to have covered Latino Conservation Week for my first authored blog post, as part of my personal mission is to engage, educate, and inspire people of all ethnicities to appreciate and conserve wildlife.
Latino Conservation Week, a Hispanic Access Foundation initiative, is of paramount importance for providing underrepresented communities with opportunities to connect with the environment. I truly believe that a passion for conservation is developed through personal experiences with nature, and Hispanic Access Foundation interns work to develop and execute events to foster this development. I was fortunate to have been able to attend two events during the week hosted by fellow interns Ivette Lopez and Michael Bonilla.
I visited the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Connecticut for Ivette Lopez’s “Explorando la Naturaleza: New Haven Community Visit to Outer Island” event. For many of the 36 LEAP summer camp kids, traveling to Outer Island via boat was a first time experience. Their bravery and excitement was an inspiring way to kickoff the day.
Upon arrival, the kids participated in a birding workshop where they learned to use binoculars to identify bird species that inhabit the island. Additionally, the kids learned how to sample water and test for water quality parameters, including pH. My favorite part of the day was when the kids were asked to collect crabs from the beach. Many of the participants had never had the opportunity to see crabs up close, never mind touch them! At first there were many screams and shrieks as kids got close to touching the crabs, but after just minutes they were eager to collect as many crabs as possible. It was extremely heartening and fulfilling to witness the transformation in these kids, in just a matter of minutes! They went from being genuinely afraid of these sea creatures to enthusiastically moving rocks to uncover the biggest crab they could find. Being able to witness their shift in perspective toward wildlife was a true honor, and instilled an incredible sense of pride in me to be able to be a part of such a powerful movement- Latino Conservation Week!
I also visited Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge in support of Michael Bonilla’s event, “Enseñame a Pescar: Providence Community Visit to Kettle Pond / Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge”. Michael led local families and Providence YWCA kids on guided walks around Kettle Pond, where participants learned to identify and distinguish native plant species, amphibians, and birds, many of which they had never seen before. Michael showed the kids how to use binoculars, and how to “silently” walk through the forest in search of birds. It was especially great to see the kids struggle to contain their immense excitement each time a bird was spotted, as they clearly wanted to jump for joy! It really exemplified how enthusiastic and passionate they were about seeing a different bird species for the first time, but also their ability to recognize the importance of respecting the birds’ environment as not to disturb it. They understood that minimizing disturbance was for the mutual benefit of both the bird and themselves, an invaluable lesson to encompass at such a young age on coexisting with wildlife. It was an imperative reminder that today’s youth are the future of conservation, and experiences like these help inspire them to love and appreciate nature, and to work to protect it throughout their lifetime.
It’s opportunities like these that connect people with the natural world, and inspire them to become environmental stewards to ensure a future where people can have these same experiences with nature. For the participants, the Latino Conservation Week events instilled excitement toward interacting with the environment, and created positive, lasting memories for years to come. Thank you Ivette and Michael for bringing these opportunities to the New Haven and Providence communities, and for highlighting the Latino passion for the outdoors, role in conservation, and improving the lives for this generation and the next!
Follow these incredible interns all summer as they share their stories of conservation and outreach!