As our airplane landed, I immediately noticed that the single terminal was surrounded by evergreen trees and just beyond was a spectacular view of the Heney Range. I could not believe it–I had arrived in Alaska. This scenery was drastically different than what I was accustomed to back home. I was born and raised in Los Angeles. Although I grew up in a densely populated city, my passion for wildlife and environmental conservation progressed from my family’s roadtrips to local and state parks. Given that most of the landscape consisted of buildings and roads, I was inspired to leave my home for greener pastures. For my undergrad, I went across the country to a small rural town in Ohio. There I attended Kenyon College, where I learned how to appreciate the natural processes within the field of biology. My passion for biology stemmed from my childhood days of reading bird encyclopedia books and observing bird behaviors, but once in college I applied my knowledge to scientific studies. I was a bird enthusiast from the get-go!
After college I was certain I wanted to continue to pursue my career in conservation. Therefore, I sought out various internships and opportunities and a couple of years later I landed in the Environment for the America’s (EFTA) arms. EFTA is a wonderful non-profit organization that works with government agencies, private, and non-profit organizations in the Western Hemisphere to protect and promote our natural resources. A large part of their mission is to work with diverse partners and audiences towards bird conservation. I was convinced! Within their efforts to increase diversity in the sciences I noticed that they had a Celebra las Aves (translation from Spanish: Celebrate Birds) internship. It is a five to six month program that provides Latino recent college grads the opportunity to not only survey shorebirds but provide outreach programs to the public. I immediately applied and months later I found myself in training for my internship in San Diego!
The week-long training in San Diego was a valuable experience for me, during which I was surrounded by wonderful people who were nature aficionados like me! At times it was a real challenge for me to identify wintering shorebirds, given that this group of birds that live and thrive on the coast look very similar to each other. The birds look more alike if you look at them from a distance of 200 feet or more. Nevertheless, by the end of it we all learned to appreciate them more and I could safely say that we are much more confident on shorebird identification when we left the program than when we entered it. Now I am currently located in Chugach National Forest in Alaska. I cannot wait to find out what the other interns are up to in their respective locations. At the airport in Alaska I only saw a snapshot of the region, so I am excited to see what adventures await me in the great wilderness!