When spring came to Cordova, there were Varied Thrushes whistling like flutes in the trees, Steller’s Jays squawking harshly, Dusky Geese and Trumpeter Swans honking at Eyak Lake, and of course, large flocks of sandpipers and dunlins whirring past on the mud flats of Hartney Bay. After the nesting period ended in early summer, there was so much life buzzing, chirping, screeching and singing. You had to be careful not to paddle too close to a nesting swan or goose lest you risked getting your head cuffed by an aggressive momma bird.
In a way, nature paralleled my Environment for the Americas internship. From the start, it’s been non-stop action and fun. If it wasn’t preparing for the Copper River Shorebird Festival, it was volunteering at Cordova’s Salmon Jam. If it wasn’t monitoring shorebirds, it was nest island monitoring out on the delta. If it wasn’t searching for a rare plant, it was hunting down invasive slugs. Every day brought forth an adventure set against spectacular scenery and unforgettable people. However, now that it’s late summer, things have quieted down.
Except for the ravens and crows cawing and the occasional yelp from the gulls, there isn’t much bird music outside anymore. Earlier this week, we broke down gear and tents at Dusky Camp and said goodbye as we motored down the Alaganik in the airboat.
This internship with Environment for the Americas has been nothing short of a dream come true. I’ve seen more wildlife here than I have anywhere else. I grew up believing California was the best place in the world (I mean we’ve got rugged coastlines, sandy beaches, snow-capped mountain ranges, deserts and forests), but Alaska has taken ahold so strongly that I’ve had to reconsider.
Working at the US Forest Service has been awesome. I’ve met some of the most incredible and passionate people in the environmental field. My supervisors Erin Cooper and Melissa Gabrielson have been just amazing and so supportive of me. I’ve gained an invaluable skillset and knowledge that will allow me to progress further along in my career path. If anything, this internship confirmed that I want to continue learning how to be an agent of change in the environment.
I’m saying goodbye to this internship with many happy memories. I’ll always fondly remember laughing with the other interns as we struggled to ID shorebirds (and applauding each other when we were correct!) during training at San Diego. I won’t ever forget my first Dusky Camp visit was a boat ride down with the Wildlife Crew for a picnic and s’mores. My EFTA internship has come to a close, but I won’t have to say my goodbyes to Alaska anytime soon because I’ve been hired to continue working with the Cordova Ranger District until the end of September. After that, I might follow the birds’ southward migrations down the coast. Wherever that may be, I know for sure that I’ll be more than prepared after my experience in Alaska.