In late September, I had the amazing opportunity of joining biological technicians at the Lodi Fish & Wildlife Office for a fun day of fish monitoring. I participated in the Enhanced Delta Smelt Monitoring (EDSM) Program, a high effort- year-round program, whose objectives are: (1) estimate the total abundance of Delta smelt on a weekly basis, (2) estimate their spatial distribution at a management-relevant spatial and temporal resolution, and (3) provide data that support management decisions and address scientific questions to further understanding of sampling efficiency, drivers of Delta smelt population patterns, and other conservation and management-relevant topics.
I arrived at 6am, met all the staff members, and began gathering the gear and learning about the equipment used to measure salinity, turbidity, and other data. We drove an hour to a sampling site on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River and off I went on my first ride on a trawl ever. Unfortunately, the air quality was too unhealthy for us to sample, but I enjoyed the chilly wind hitting my face and feeling the speed of the boat on the ride.
I couldn’t imagine more of a unique field day as an intern, but I was presented with the opportunity to participate in the bi-annual elk surveys at San Luis National Wildlife Refuge and that’s just as special. Two other interns and I joined refuge staff members, biologists, and other volunteers on the mission. We split up into different all-terrain vehicles, entered the enclosed lot from different areas, and herded the population to the northern region where we counted the elk and noted observations. San Luis NWR can hold 40-50 elk at once, and we saw elk ranging from a few months old to fully developed males with large antlers. I enjoyed working with everyone to determine where the elk were moving and how we could best herd them. It was a huge team effort, but so rewarding when all of our efforts payed off.
Outside of field work, my supervisor assigned me my first section 7 informal consultation, an amazing professional opportunity that is preparing me for future positions with the Service. I analyzed a residential development project with an effects determination of not likely to adversely affect the federally threatened vernal pool fairy shrimp, federally endangered tadpole shrimp, and the federally threatened valley elderberry longhorn beetle. I felt confident in writing a Letter of Concurrence, a document for the action agency of the Service’s agreement with its determination, but after receiving 20+ edits on my first draft I felt like I failed. My supervisor reminded me that it was common for documents to be revised and then re-revised, and after getting a second input from a senior biologist, I felt more capable of writing a logical, clear paper. I submitted the Letter this week, and feel satisfied with my effort and finished product.
I feel incredibly lucky for the variety of professional experiences I have accumulated and appreciate the way they have reinforced my passion for conservation. My internship has also further reinforced my passion for advancing more professional opportunities like these for other first-generation, Hispanic individuals, particularly women and LGBTQ+ members.