Reflection of my Internship with Minnesota Valley Reflection of my Internship with Minnesota Valley
15 July 2024

Reflection of my Internship with Minnesota Valley

Back in May, I completed my bachelor's degree in Environmental Science from the University of Idaho and moved away from my hometown in Wasilla, Alaska, accepting an internship with the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington, Minnesota, as a Community Engagement and Visitor Services Intern.

Now having been here in Minnesota for almost six months, it is hard for me to say that I will be approaching my last day as an intern.

It feels like it was just yesterday that I started my internship, met the refuge staff, completed my trainings, and walked the Long Meadow Lake path for my very first time, in awe of the beauty of Minnesota’s nature and filled with excitement for what the next six months might bring.

Working at Minnesota Valley, even for a brief amount of time, has really impacted my life.

Having the opportunity to come to work every day at a wildlife refuge, wearing my maroon printed Minnesota Valley sweater, and work with a whole team of incredible staff has been just the foundation of my experience here.

Over the course of my internship, I have had so many meaningful opportunities.

Learning about and becoming familiar with the wildlife, plants, and vegetation in Minnesota has been one of my favorite experiences I feel I took away from this job. Achieving a point in my internship where I could bring groups of participants on hikes and walks and point out different plants and flowers is a skill that has brought me closer to my love for nature and wildlife.

In the early summertime, I spent weekdays often assisting biologists traversing the trails and collecting data for different research projects. Some of these included collecting and identifying bees for the Bumble Bee Atlas, tagging monarchs for our Monarch Watch project, prairie restoration and seed collection, bird and duck banding, and surveys at Louisville Swamp where I participated in the observation and collection of various plants and species of vegetation.

In July I assisted with the Visitor Services front desk during the Latino Conservation Week Festival, answering questions during the event to visitors in both English and Spanish. Shortly after came the Fish and Wildlife MidWest Intern Conference, where I participated in several workshops and panels, as well as connected with other interns and Service staff.

Delivering and creating educational and nature based interpretive programming is where I started to really fall in love with the work I do.

There is something special about human connection, that, and human connection with nature. At our very core we are social beings that depend on each other. Being able to give programming's and connect with the people that make up the Twin Cities has been the highlight of my time at Minnesota Valley.

Hikes through refuge trails, fishing programs, and bird walks have given me insight that there is something beautiful about being able to work for an agency that pays me to promote and enhance human connection to nature. This teaching is very important. Teaching kids how to fish, and inspiring young adults and people of all ages to get outside and learn about wildlife has been really exciting and enjoyable.

Aside from programming's, I often had the chance to assist educational professionals with our Nature In your Neighborhood programs where we visited local libraries in the Twin Cities and put on engaging activities for youth to inspire them to get outside and explore wildlife through scavenger hunts, arts, and activities.

Working with our partners and diverse groups of individuals have also played a huge role in my internship.

During August I co-led a river paddle with Luella's Latinas down the Minnesota River, participated and co-led several Meet Minnesota Valley meet and greet's at Old Cedar Avenue, coordinated and led two successful pop-up fishing programs with partners Trout Unlimited and St Paul Parks and Rec, and participated in a Paddle with a Purpose with Our Saviors English Language Center.

The fishing programs I led at Powderhorn Park were another highlight to my internship.

I really have enjoyed my time in community outreach and engagement. This position has inspired me to talk and interact with people in the public, where on several occasions, I regularly find myself setting up a tent and inviting people to interact with nature, which has allowed me to become more comfortable and social in both my personal life and in the field.

There was one fishing program in particular in August that reached about 100 people. Several of these participants had just been walking by the pier dock, and I invited them to fish. What started as an empty pier dock eventually transitioned into 100 people and families fishing, filling up the entire pier dock and both the right and left stretches of water. Running around fixing fishing wire, exchanging poles, handing out bait, and seeing families and kids laughing and catching fish was something that really stuck with me and made me proud to work for Minnesota Valley.

Several of these participants had mentioned it was their very first time fishing, and even caught their first fish too! To see kids leaping in the air with delight and their parents smile was something that really made me happy. The program was initially scheduled to go until 7:00, but I had ended up extending the program to 9:00 p.m. because everyone was having so much fun. It was a nice reflection to make that this program was doing exactly our intentions, connecting communities with nature and inspiring the public to get outside.

After the summer months concluded, I spent time on bird walks with our volunteer, Craig Mendell, learning about the various birds and wildlife that pass through the Minnesota flyway.

I spent time tagging monarchs during migration season with volunteers at the Bloomington Education and Visitor Center as well as participated in a tabling event with our friends group in the Monarch Festival held at Nokomis Park.

Much of my fall was spent painting, you could probably find me most of the time in the office either holding a canvas or covered in paint. My supervisor, Oscar Hernandez, put me in charge of our refuge Nature Novice, a program series with efforts to inspire participants to get closer to nature. I had decided to do Painting In Nature, held at Old Cedar Avenue, in Bloomington. This program consisted of organizing and setting up a bunch of paint, tables, and canvases in our Nature Play area where I laid out tarps in a grassy area and invited participants to come paint with me! The series included three programs featuring a black bird at sunset, green caterpillar, and an abstract grasshopper.

Happily, each program had a full sign-up list weeks before the date of the program and participants really enjoyed them!

During my internship I had several opportunities to write social media content for the refuge Facebook page, create weekly digital displays in our Bloomington Visitor Center featuring refuge events and activities, as well as a Wildlife Watch article for the Refuge website titled, “A Walk-Through September”, with focus on prairie vegetation and wildlife in September highlighting goldenrods, aster, white snake root and hoary vervain.

On a monthly basis I was productive in attending VSO Meetings, informational sessions, networking picnics, and coffee hours. During my internship, I felt inspired to find every opportunity I could to fill every hour of my day with Fish and Wildlife.

Once October and November came, I helped put together a Walk and Chalk Party on Urban Wildlife Conservation Day at our Bloomington Visitor and Education Center, attended the Minnesota Naturalist Association Conference in Duluth, where I networked with other conservation professionals and explored and identified lichen along the North Shore, as well as assisted staff with educational field trips on native and nonnative plant identification.

During my internship, I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to roam the trails during trail checks. I led a beginner hiking series along our Long Meadow Lake trail and our Bluff Trail. In preparation for these hikes, I met with senior biologist, Faye Healy, and scoped the trail for plants and flowers as well as collected historical documents to ensure an informational and enjoyable program for our participants. Along these hikes I was quick to point out different plants and even took one group out to a viewpoint of the Minnesota River, where I spotted a wild grape tree and invited the group to indulge in a quick snack.

In my last weeks at the refuge, I drafted and designed templates for exhibits in the Middle Atrium at the Visitor Center, assisted staff with a remodeling project, drafted a few more social media posits for our Facebook, and said my goodbyes.

Looking back I can confidently say it has been a wonderful and enjoyable time working for the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the Hispanic Access Foundation, and I look forward to continuing work in the service.

I wanted to take a moment to reflect and thank the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, the Hispanic Access Foundation, and the Fish and Wildlife Service for the amazing work they do and for allowing me the opportunity to be an intern for a brief moment in time. I would like to also express my appreciation and gratitude for these organizations and their willingness in funding opportunities for young professionals in the field. 

I would like to also give a very special thank you to my supervisor, Oscar Hernandez, for providing me with unconditional support every day of my internship, mentoring me through my programs and supplying me with an abundance of resources and professional development opportunities, and making each and every day of my internship an easy, educational, and enjoyable experience.

Thank you to everyone and see you soon :)

MANO Project
is an initiative of Hispanic 
Access Foundation.

P: (202) 640-4342