It has been nine months since I started my internship here at Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge and it has still been one of the greatest learning experiences. It has been a very busy couple of months for me here at the refuge. In September we had a grand opening of the brand-new visitor center that was built in 2021. It was such a great moment for all of us to see all the hard work and preparation finally get to be enjoyed. The grand opening date was also paired with the 10th birthday of the refuge. We had so much fun, at the event we had live music, games, guest speakers, and lots of giveaways and delicious food. On top of my normal projects that I plan and prepare here my supervisors have been very great about helping me to find opportunities to help me figure out what I want to do after my internship.
Since professional development is a part of my internship, I got to spend a month going to different sites and locations within USFWS and have an opportunity to help with their work while getting to learn new things. I went to San Andres National Wildlife Refuge which is about 3.5 hours south of the refuge I currently work at. San Andres NWR is closed to the public because it is located within a military base which restricts access for the public. This refuge is 57,215 acres and is part of the largest continuous and relatively undisturbed portion of the Chihuahuan Desert in the United States. This refuge was established in 1941 in order to conserve desert bighorn sheep. During my time there I got to help with the bighorn sheep research, oryx research, and small mammal trapping. I was able to help out for a week at this refuge where we would hike several miles uphill on rough, rocky terrain daily in order to set up and check on game cameras. We would check the SD cards in order to determine if those cameras were at good angles or needed to be moved as well as to do animal surveys and counts mainly on bighorn sheep and oryx. We also did counts on the other species we captured to determine population estimates for those species.
I went to Mora National Fish Hatchery. This hatchery has been breeding and raising Gila trout since 1999 and the only hatchery that raises these fish. The Gila trout was listed as endangered in 1973 and in 2006 they were down listed to threatened. These fish are stocked annually in reservoirs, lakes, rivers and the streams in the Gila. While I was there, I got to maintain fish populations and make sure their environments were healthy for the survival of these populations.
I went and worked with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in the Rio Grande to tag and count Rio Grande silvery minnows, longnose dace, and flathead chub. We were able to do this by conducting 40 seine hauls every 100m for 1600 meter long transects. We would VIE tag the target species, take data recordings such as length, location, and site. We would then release the fish once tagged and see if we could recapture them to get population estimates. We would also take measurements of the river at each site and after each haul.
Although I still don’t know what I want to do after my internship I am so glad I had the opportunity to go and try new things. During this month-long opportunity, I learned a lot about what I enjoy doing and what I would like to continue doing. I still have three months left in my internship which will be here before I know it but now I have more of an idea of what I am interested in when it comes to looking for opportunities.