Looking back at my previous internships, my personal connection to the outdoors, and now interning at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge has convinced me of the best possible answer. I believe that we must allow people to create positive and long-lasting connections with outdoor spaces. And probably the most important thing is to begin building those connections early on during childhood. Changing the future of wildlife and their environment from one of extinction to one of biodiversity richness will require younger generations to value the green areas and wildlife they have in their backyard or nearby city parks. Fortunately, this is what the visitor services interns and I have been doing in the last two months and I appreciate every time we get to see someone become interested in pollinators, birds, and plants.
Some of the main programs I worked on revolved around public outreach to teach kids how to fish through an interactive game and helping the National Park Service ranger teach kids how to kayak and leading them through a tour of the River Raisin. Additionally, the outreach programs allowed me to interact with people who’ve never heard of the US Fish and Wildlife Service before and help them make that first connection to the refuge. I also coordinated and created a plastic pollution awareness program as part of Latino Conservation Week to teach people about the importance of reducing our plastic waste. We had a very small crowd, but coordinating this program taught me valuable lessons, including making the realization of how much work needs to be done to bring to light the issue of plastic pollution. I also witnessed incredible moments when children of every age fascinated at the idea of mammals being pollinators through a simple game of bingo or seeing their surprised look when they learned that toads don’t give you warts, but instead can be used to help identify the species.
While my internship is coming to an end, I can’t wait to carry out the outreach programs we have left and the opportunity to learn more about the refuge and its management. Overall, I am looking forward to being out in the community as much I can in these last few days to share my passion for wildlife and the message of how people at any stage in life can make a critical impact in their conservation.