Hello my name is Veronica Cuyun I’m a Conservation Community Champion with the Hispanic Access Foundation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. My first month working with the Urban Wildlife Refuge team has been very insightful. This internship is the first of its kind, so it gives me the opportunity to channel my creative side. During this internship I hope to help bridge the gap between the outdoors and underrepresented communities. One way to do this is by interacting with your local community. My first week was a quick dive into community engagement at I’m Hooked Inc. I was excited to attend because I haven’t participated in events since the beginning of the pandemic.
During the event we played some animal trivia. One question that piqued interest of multiple groups was: “which salamander stays in its paedomorphic stage throughout its life?”. Most of the kids were shouting that they have seen this animal in the popular video game Minecraft. The animal they were thinking about was the Axolotl. Axolotls are critically endangered salamanders that occur in Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco in Mexico. Axolotl’s range is so small, but a game like Minecraft raised awareness to many people. This opened my eyes to how people can connect with nature through mediums you wouldn’t expect.
Technology has become a big part of the new generation. I have heard about nature deficit disorder, which is the idea that people are spending less time outdoors and more time on electronics. I believe we should be providing ways where people are drawn to the outdoors. One of these should be creating ways people can interact with nature through games or apps. The great outdoors should have an element of convenience that everyone can have access to.
This event taught me that engaging with the public is vital when it comes to listening to their interests and needs. How do we expect people to find passion in nature when they don’t have access to it? I’m really looking forward to more events that bridge the divide between nature and people.