I had been lucky to realize I could have a place in natural resources and have had many support systems to encourage me to stay in it. There were many obstacles that should have cut me off from this path. From my urban upbringing disconnecting me from the natural world for most of my life to the imposter syndrome I felt when I watched my peers carry themselves effortlessly in the field, I doubted myself constantly. Thankfully, my passion for wildlife allowed me to power through the discomfort until I accepted myself as a biologist.
In the next chapter of my professional career, I find myself again being challenged with a new way of being with this different type of work. What makes the transition smoother, however, is the reason I applied for this fellowship in the first place. I stumbled upon the internship listing after a long search for my next job. Debating if I could even belong in an office environment or was capable of the tasks involved, the mission of the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program drew me in: building relationships between wildlife refuges and urban populations to maximize access, awareness, stewardship, career readiness in conservation, and so much more. This hit home.
Given my history, I see it as my responsibility to help people color from a variety of non-traditional backgrounds find a place for themselves in the environment physically and professionally. Yet, I’ve struggled with balancing wanting to help others find their place in the life sciences and actively wanting to work as a scientist. While I’ve been fortunate to have some incredible field experiences, I hadn't yet committed myself toward the former objective whole-heartedly. This fellowship gives me the chance to work towards that goal in supporting a service I wish I had.
Having a role in the US Fish and Wildlife Service is an honor I could have only dreamed of. Being here to support such a meaningful community-based program that can have long-lasting effects on urban youth and the future of wildlife conservation makes the opportunity all the more special. It will take time to settle into my discomfort and get used to the ins and outs of this new work environment I find myself in. But I am reminded of how new challenges has benefited me in the past. In the meantime, I excitedly await fulfilling my program’s needs.