07 May 2023

CCC Conference at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Written by: Annika Benedetti

It’s hard to believe that 2023 is almost half-way over! The highlight of the year for me so far is the trip to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge with the other Civilian Climate Corps fellows. It was great to meet the other CCC fellows in person and talk about their experiences. The other fellows are stationed at National Wildlife Refuges throughout the country and in Visitor Services so their work is very different from mine. So, it was very interesting to learn about life on the refuges and working for Headquarters in D.C.

As an Oil and Gas Fellow, I work on data from multiple refuges using geospatial software and remote sensing methods without ever leaving the regional headquarters in Albuquerque, so it was very refreshing to get out into the field for a change. And, it was pretty novel to walk around an area I have only seen from a top-down perspective on a map on a computer.

Also, we received an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the refuge and I loved getting to talk to the Aransas refuge biologists and other staff. We spent a lot of time discussing conservation projects around the refuge ecosystems and certain management practices like controlled burning, livestock grazing, flooding, trapping, etc.

               I got to walk around the refuge nature trails at dusk right on along the water which was incredible. I spent my whole life on the East Coast, right on Long Island Sound so moving to the deserts and mountains of New Mexico was certainly a huge adjustment. So, it was nice to see the ocean again, especially alongside some amazing wildlife. On our sunset stroll, we saw some alligators sunning on the rocks, and spotted one slip into the water just as we were passing by on the trail and I may have speed walked away.

               My highlight of the refuge tour for me was seeing a few Whooping Cranes, the rarest and tallest crane in North America. They are also an endangered species and Aransas is a crucial habitat for them in Texas. Finally, though not as exciting as a nature walk, we got to visit an active well site, which was fascinating since I analyze the terrain patterns of these sites in ArcGIS Pro find abandoned wells sites that can be hopefully identified and mitigated.

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