Written by Lesly Caballero
Meet my supervisor Erin Cooper, Wildlife Biologist in the Cordova Ranger District of the Chugach National Forest! Erin grew up in Illinois with her family. Some of her fondest childhood memories include going on road trips and camping with her family. They visited many Forests and National Parks in the surrounding area. During school she volunteered and did an internship with the Forest Service in Wyoming doing interpretive work. She really liked being outdoors and the constant learning that it brought her. She later moved to Alaska working for the Forest Service and became interested in Wildlife. She has worked with the Cordova Ranger District for 17 years in the Wildlife department.
Erin is very passionate about her job and the work she does. It is something that is always reflected in her work. She loves being out in the field and participating in projects. She also enjoys building programs. This includes envisioning a project, developing the program, grant writing, and seeing it come to life. Programs include WetlandsLive, Fungus Festival and Shorebird Surveys. She also enjoys working with the dedicated and enthusiastic members of her crew.
Erin was interested in being part of the Celebra las Aves Playeras project because of the connections it would create along the Pacific Flyway. Connecting shorebird monitoring during their migration as well as people participating in these efforts. The key to inspire students to pursue a science career and work for agencies like the Forest Service is to expose them to these opportunities at a young age. The mentoring that comes with these internship opportunities is another important factor.
Erin finds participating in this project with EFTA valuable because one of the goals for the project is to expose underrepresented students to science careers and this is essential in order to diversify the workplace. Although there is a need for diversity in higher positions, participating in internships and volunteering early in our careers is meaningful because that is where it all starts and what will get us to those higher positions in the future.
This internship project has helped Erin and her project with the Forest Service. Having bilingual educational programs such as WetlandsLive and community programs has given the opportunity for a broader audience in Cordova. It has helped with Copper River International Migratory Bird Initiative (CRIMBI). Another project this has helped with is getting community engaged with Shorebird Surveys for future surveys. In addition to many projects I have been involved in, I have also had the opportunity to work as part of a team doing fieldwork with the wildlife crew.