With one month down since the start of my internship, I have already been exposed to a lot of new experiences. In the place I grew up, I had minimal opportunities to visit natural parks and refuges--doing so required at least a weekend's trip worth of time. So getting to visit my first wildlife refuge and doing work revolving around it has been very exciting. In just my first week, my supervisor mentioned how hectic the month of October was shaping out to be, and she wasn't kidding. With my responsibilities being focused on visitor services tasks and community outreach, the amount of events and programs we have facilitated has been nonstop, in a good way! But not only that, I've already gotten a bunch of opportunities to visit different parts of the refuge complex, each of which has its own flavor and beautiful scenery, and have also met many of our education partners and fellow researchers.
The most recent community event I participated in was a program in partnership with Effingham County, GA at the Honey Ridge Agricenter farm. A field trip of 1st grade kids from all the local county schools came onto the farm and got a chance to hear about the wildlife they share spaces with and the habitats that surround them, including learning about honey bee pollination and native owl species. Because this was part of an agriculture program, they also got to learn what it's like working on a farm and did fun activities including making their way through a corn maze (and understanding its importance as a crop), going on a hayride, and seeing what it takes to take care of the farm animals. Younger kids are especially satisfying to do programs with because of their willingness to learn, ask questions, and excitedness about the activities. Not only this, but the program was also set up.
Going forward, I have a lot of tasks ahead of me. One of my main responsibilities is going to be working to come up with program ideas that can get the communities of Hardeeville, SC, involved with nature and learning about the environment. As an underserved community of mostly blacks and Hispanics, efforts to connect with those living there has thus far been difficult despite attempts being made prior to me joining the Fish and Wildlife Service. I hope to manage to create a strong connection with the City of Hardeeville, and fortunately a local community leader has been receptive to the refuge's recent efforts. This is what I most wish to accomplish by the end of my internship, and is a challenge I am more than willing to undertake. As I work toward this, I am grateful for the mentorship that my supervisor and colleagues have given me in this first month since I started, and hope to continue making an impact for the better.