My experience interning at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge has continued to be incredibly educational and exciting. The refuge is always bustling with something new going on and I enjoy the part I play in supporting my team. In the most recent month, I have continued to help plan and organize some of the major partnership programs Loxahatchee has within its Urban and Community Engagement Program. I have also begun taking part in the preparations for Loxahatchee's annual event Everglades Days!
“Everglades Days” is a week-long celebration of the Everglades held every year at the Refuge. The event focuses on bringing awareness and educating visitors on all the wonderful things about the Everglades. In preparation for this event, the Refuge’s Visitor Services team has been having weekly meetings to discuss and coordinate event details. I am scheduled to lead two tours on the cypress boardwalk behind the Refuge’s visitor center. I look forward to leading this tour as I feel it will raise my confidence regarding public speaking and present an opportunity to share with others the uniqueness of the refuge. I am also working on translating the event's activities flier to Spanish to welcome more people from local communities to the celebration.
My work within the urban Program has been my favorite so far. I often spend time with my supervisor brainstorming how we can refine and organize the current programs. It is rewarding to refine a program idea and work with partners to turn it into something tangible that can benefit the community. We are currently doing just that with the Urban Program’s Pocket Refuge Program. The Pocket Refuge program is one of Loxahatchee’s longest-running Urban Programs. The purpose of a pocket refuge is to create public spaces that provide a place for people to connect with nature while simultaneously providing a habitat for native species in urbanized areas. The refuge has partnered with many different organizations to establish pocket refuge sites out in the community. We are currently in the process of streamlining the program to help future interested partners understand how the program is aimed toward collaboration on building local green spaces. Our most recent Pocket Refuge partner is a local college Wellness & Counseling Department at Palm Beach State Community College. We are currently in the process of co-designing a meditation/pocket refuge garden on the campus to aid the mental health of students and faculty while providing habitat. This program is just one of the many I get to help support in my role at the refuge.
In addition to our current programs, it is also motivating to meet new local organizations doing meaningful work and discuss how you can partner together. We were recently put in contact with a local non-profit called Love Hope and Healing that focuses on the following mission: “Empowering at-risk, underserved, and underrepresented youth and families to build brighter futures through wellness, mental health support, and mentorship.” We are now working towards scheduling a meeting with them to discuss potential partnership opportunities.
Lastly, aside from all the work I get to do within Loxahatchee’s Urban Program and Visitor Service team I also get to occasionally go out in the Everglades! In the last month, I have been able to take part in two different fieldwork activities. At the start of December, I joined two field technicians from the University of Florida out on an airboat for fieldwork. We went out into the interior of the Refuge to check wildlife monitoring cameras placed on tree islands. I had never done anything like that before and was excited to put on waders and walk through the swamp onto the tree islands. When we arrived at each island, the technician showed me how they checked the camera data, replaced the cameras, and took note of the vegetation on the islands. I was able to join in on some fieldwork again this past week. I went out alongside one of the Refuge’s biology interns to check invasive Cuban Tree frog traps. We walked through the cypress swamp checking the traps and then removed the invasive species. We then recorded the water level depth at each site, and the sizes of each frog caught. I appreciated the opportunity to experience some of the other kinds of work done on the refuge through both of these activities.
I look forward to the remainder of my time at the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. I hope that during the rest of my time here I can continue to aid in the development of programs that seek to support the local communities. As the Refuge gears up for its busy season I am eager to support all the coming events and festivities.