02 October 2023

Realignment with My Purpose and Reconnecting with Mi Comunidad

Written by: Alondra Urena

The last two months have brought a myriad of new experiences, from visiting my first wildlife refuge (I’ve now visited 4!) to celebrating Latino Conservation Week.  

I visited Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, met the refuge manager and staff, and learned about Partners for Fish and Wildlife from the Partners’ state coordinator. Sacramento Field Office interns and I observed an overly invasive primrose plant that overtook the ditches of water used to fill wetlands and learned about vegetation management processes (use of herbicides and disking). A highlight was going to the California Delta Hunting Club and understanding the land manager’s role.

The second refuge I visited was a flight away for #LatinoConsevationWeek2023 at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. I met other Hispanic Access Foundation interns and the MANO program associate, Yashira M. Valentin Feliciano. The night before the event, I went to my first baseball game in Minneapolis for the Twins vs. White Sox, the Twins won! Yashira and I met early the day of the event to set up our table with flyers, MANO swag including #LatinoConsevationWeek2023 stickers and tote bags, plus a temporary tattoo station. The temporary tattoo station was a hit: everyone, from children to moms to artists, was interested in representing the beautiful LCW 2023 emblem. We all enjoyed live music, performances from traditional Aztec dancers, and empanadas from a local food truck. The trip was an experience I’ll never forget, especially with how meaningful  it was to celebrate ten years of the event with my Latinx community and my first time in the Midwest. 

 August has flown by, literally with all the butterfly surveys I’ve participated in. The first week, I attended a week-long, Section 7 training which was an amazing professional development opportunity to understand the Service’s role in implementing the Endangered Species Act.  Last week, I participated in two field visits to Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge with biologists from the Bay Delta Field Office and staff from the refuge for Lange's Metalmark Butterfly surveys. We observed and identified other butterfly species including the California Sisters, Mournful Dustywings, and Skippers. Unfortunately, we have not seen the Lange’s yet, but the surveys will continue until the first week of September and we are all very optimistic we will spot one. I feel like a mini butterfly expert, sharing my knowledge of butterflies with my friends and family, which has been special.

I’ve lived out some of my wildest dreams, participating in side quests that I could have only dreamed of as a young kid, and which have elevated my internship experience. Out on the dunes last week, in the sweltering heat well over 90 degrees, I felt an internal surge of peace as I realized I hadn’t spent as much time outdoors like this since I was a kid playing in the park with my primos and primas every weekend. When was the last time I enjoyed the outdoors, not thinking about watching a show after work or what I’d cook for dinner, but letting myself feel the sun and get lost staring at a butterfly? It’s been very healing for my inner child and after months of staying indoors for the pandemic and working in retail, the last few weeks have been a breath of fresh air. It's been a sign of true alignment with my purpose in conservation as well as a reminder for me to never be afraid to be an intern, start over, and rediscover myself, my passions, and mi comunidad. 

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