Spotlight Story

29 June 2022

Kevin Soto Figueroa: One Step Closer to a Career in Conservation

Category: Spotlight Story

From Jayuya, Puerto Rico, Kevin Soto Figueroa traveled more than 3,000 miles to follow his dream of becoming an international wildlife conservationist. As a Visitor Service and Environmental Educator Intern at Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, he plans to further develop his skills and strategies to protect wildlife, and educate communities about the value of nature conservation.

In addition to growing up surrounded by Puerto Rico’s biodiversity and green hills, Soto Figueroa developed an interest for wildlife when he started college, and became a member of “Yo amo el Tingar” in 2015, a non-profit organization in Arecibo, Puerto Rico that is dedicated to monitoring and protecting sea turtles. His undergraduate experience was fueled by curiosity, and a desire to keep learning about the species and ecosystems that make up not only Puerto Rico, but the world.

“When I first got involved, I had to wake up at 3:00 a.m. to give myself enough time to travel to Arecibo because turtle monitoring started at 5:00 a.m.,” said Soto Figueroa. “After I was done, I had to run to class and my boots always left a trail of sand everywhere I went.”

In 2017, Kevin founded the United Marine Science Association (UMSA) to help college students learn more about marine ecology, the environment, and conservation. In 2020, he did undergraduate research through the National Science Foundation at “El Yunque” National Forest about freshwater shrimp and their responses to natural and anthropogenic disturbances. After graduating in 2021 with a bachelor’s in biology, he struggled to find employment opportunities, and began to search the internet for internships.

“I kept getting rejection letters, and when I found this internship with Hispanic Access, I applied feeling hopeless because I was so used to getting rejected,” said Soto Figueroa. “I’ve been at Humboldt Bay for four months now, and sometimes I can’t believe that I am actually here—It’s been a very special experience.”

As part of his internship, Soto Figueroa is responsible for managing the visitor center, creating educational material, and collaborates with other projects such as coastal dune restoration and the removal of invasive species such as European beach grass. Recently, he’s been helping with Nature Inspires, a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service initiative to connect communities with wildlife refuges and non-profit environmental organizations. This opportunity has taught him how to educate and equip communities with resources to understand what it means to protect and conserve the environment.

“This is a very important step in my career because I’m learning what conservation really is, and it's not just about protecting nature, it’s about getting people involved so they can learn how to care for the environment,” said Soto Figueroa. “Though I am not a conservationist yet, I am one step closer. To me, a dream isn’t a place, it’s a journey, and right now I am on it.”

Hispanic Access is inspiring, training, and supporting local leaders like Kevin Soto Figueroa, who have a stake in their community and have the drive for positive change. To help support and continue this work, please consider making a Charitable Donation

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