by Wilson Andres Acuña
Wilson is wrapping up his summer as an intern at the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex. One of six interns co-advised by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Hispanic Access Foundation, Wilson planned and executed environmental education programs throughout the summer. His bilingual English and Spanish programs focused on birding (a passion of his) as well as local history, making Refuge activities more accessible to the Eastern Massachusetts Latino community. Wilson reflects on his experience in visitor services below.
Guess what these things have in common:
A grand opening event for a new building
Construction of a wheel-chair accessible trail
A series of weekly birding walks
Answer: They’re just a few of the many different activities and projects I was able to participate in during my time as a visitor services intern at the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex. What does a visitor services employee do? That is a question that I often had to answer whenever someone asked me what I do for work. I would usually respond with something along the lines of “a little bit of everything.” Although there is some truth to that statement, there is a lot more to it! I found that it was necessary to take a closer look at the work I did in order to come up with a more satisfactory answer.
In my experience, working in visitor services means sharing my knowledge and love of nature with our visitors, many of whom are visiting the refuge for the first time. It means helping a 14-year-old girl see a pileated woodpecker — the # 1 species on her bird-sighting wish list. Speaking Spanish (much to the delight of our Latino visitors), creating a welcoming environment, and answering questions. It means building a nature trail accessible to people of all abilities. Finally, I make sure that visitor areas are tidy and information kiosks are up-to-date and fully stocked with maps and educational materials.
More than anything, I’ve left work every day knowing I did my part to put a smile on our visitors’ faces and encourage them to come and visit us again.
Stay tuned for the next couple weeks as more of our interns reflect on their summers in the National Wildlife Refuge System across the Northeast.