Life After an EFTA Internship

Hello! My name is Daniel Gomez, and I am an alumnus from the 2015 Environment for the Americas Celebrate Shorebirds Internship Program. As a child I was fortunate enough to have been raised close to the beach so I often found myself running in the sand and gazing out into the ocean, amazed by its vastness. These childhood experiences sparked my love for water and all the wildlife around it. When it was time to leave the nest and go college I decided I wanted to explore the country so I headed off to the University of Pennsylvania where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Earth Science with the hopes of pursuing environmental restoration in a holistic sense.

While my initial interests in college were in petroleum geology I soon returned to my first passion, water. After graduating, I returned home wanting to learn about the water issues that plague the California Central Coast. I soon found a job with the City of Salinas doing environmental planning, specifically directed to stormwater, however, I quickly realized that I wanted to be out in the field doing research and collecting data. Having learned that watershed health is dependent on more than just the physical properties related to it, I was ecstatic to find an internship program with Environment for the Americas working for the Bureau of Land Management that focused on the birds that live in shallow water and mudflats at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Reserve (ESNERR).

The EFTA internship gave me the opportunity to directly work with the wildlife that inhabit water bodies near my hometown and allowed me to strengthen my field techniques. Shockingly, even though the Elkhorn Slough is only about a 10-minute drive from my hometown I had never visited as child nor had I ever heard of it. While at the Reserve I was also involved in their water quality monitoring and it was fascinating to see how the water restoration projects were slowing increasing the water quality and wading bird population.

No matter how important and significant the research of a scientist is, it is worthless if it cannot be conveyed to the public. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to interact with my community by participating in outreach events designed to specifically reach Latino communities throughout Monterey County and letting young children and their parents know about local hiking spots so that they get to experience nature in a way that I never did.

As my internship with EFTA was wrapping up, I was given the opportunity to band songbirds with the Klamath Bird Observatory (KBO) throughout various sites in Southern Oregon. With KBO I learned how to set up a tent and camp for the first time as a 25-year-old intern and learned how to use a topographic map to get to my field locations. I was also able to refine skills that I learned with EFTA such as driving in difficult terrain and hiking long distances while collecting accurate data. As my fieldwork skills improved I was able to find employment as a Field Technician with Bird Research Northwest – a Collaborative Research Unit – that sent me to the Tri-Cities area in Eastern Washington to work with Caspian Terns and other seabirds. There I obtained my Motorboat Certification Course and learned how to operate a motorboat while navigating the Columbia River to conduct seabird surveys.

Currently, I am working with the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, an interagency organization created by Congress to focus on fisheries research, in Fort Bragg, CA. As a Fisheries Technician I conduct spawning surveys throughout all the major rivers and tributaries in Mendocino County and tag adult and juvenile salmonids in the project’s Egg Collection Station and Rotary Screw Trap.

In the near future I would like to obtain a hydrology position with the federal government and ultimately I am interested in pursuing a Master’s Degree in Hydroecology and researching how the marine derived nutrients transported by salmons into riparian systems affect plant, macroinvertebrate, and bird populations and how this, combined with water quality, can help assess the effectiveness of restoration efforts.

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