Meet EFTA Interns

Environment for the Americas (EFTA) works to connect diverse people to conservation. One of the ways it accomplishes this goal is by providing unique opportunities to youth interested in national forests, national parks, wildlife refuges, other federal lands, and with other non-profit organizations. Three to five-month internships connect participants to avian research, environmental education, interpretation, wildlife management, GIS, and more, improving their skills and helping them to compete for jobs. Alejandro Ramos, Vishva Nalamalapu, and Keely Watland joined our internship programs in 2019 and spent their summers learning what it means to work with federal agencies and conservation.

Alejandro, LHIP

On one particularly warm summer day, we met with Alejandro Ramos, Latino Heritage Internship Program’s (LHIP) Direct Hire Authority (DHA) interpretation intern, in Estes, Park Colorado. Having already completed an LHIP internship last summer, Alejandro couldn’t resist the opportunity to be back in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). The focus of Alejandro’s internship this summer was to provide the public, and specifically, Latino visitors, with information on fishing and wildlife. In addition to presentations in RMNP, Alejandro was responsible for creating helpful handouts for the visitor centers in order to provide easy access for Latino communities into the park’s programs. Alejandro says his favorite part of the interpretation program was when he would see a group of Latino kids walking up to his presentation. “There are very few [Latino kids] but when they visited, I could talk to them in Spanish and really connect with them because of their backgrounds,” he said.

After this summer’s internship and returning home, he hopes to get a job with the California Fish and Game Commission. Although he previously wanted to go into law enforcement, he has been inspired by what he learned in his internship and is considering someday “going the NPS” route. “I’ve really learned how important it is to work as a team,” Alejandro said. “We all come from different places and backgrounds but we’re doing the same job and having fun doing it.”

Vishva, Mosaics in Science

In a little office amidst hiking trails and endless greenery, we found Vishva Nalamalapu, the Mosaics in Science communication intern at Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). As the science communication intern, Vishva researched and developed communication tools for the public and specifically, the visitors of RMNP. Her project this summer was to compile research on the Rocky Mountain glaciers and create a story map of the glaciers for visitors.

Vishva’s story map on the glaciers of RMNP will allow the public to learn more about climate change and their role in its mitigation. She said RMNP was founded because of its glaciers, yet they are receding more and more each year. “By researching the impact climate change will have in the Rockies, we can assume the impact it will have elsewhere as well as help for mitigating climate change. We can show people why it’s important to take action,” Vishva said.

Most of Vishva’s work was done on her computer for research or graphic design using software such as Adobe Creative Cloud. But Vishva also took the time to hike by herself on nearby trails. Walking along the open trails without distraction complemented her online studies and allowed her to develop a holistic appreciation for her environment. After completing her research, Vishva was amazed at the collaboration of people who have been researching the glaciers for centuries. “Seeing the way that it all weaves together from people building off of the previous work was really cool,” Vishva said.

Keely, Bureau of Land Management

When we arrived at the Kremmling Field Office, Keely Watland, the BLM intern, greeted us with a big smile and welcomed us into her office. Before we got ready for our day out in the field, Keely told us a bit about her background. She said she has always loved spending time outdoors as she would often go camping or on road trips with her family during summer breaks. “I learned to love the natural world from a very young age,” Keely said. “My favorite thing to do in nature is camping; I like the dirtiness and ability to wake up in a beautiful place!”

As the natural resource specialist this summer, Keely conducted wildlife research alongside her supervisor, Tifany Rubacala, and learned what it means to work for a government agency. After completing goshawk and leopard frog surveys, Keely and Tifany concluded the summer by collecting sagebrush to test the plants’ nutrients and fertilizer intake.

Besides working with Tifany on wildlife research, Keely’s project for the summer was to create a management plan for Gore Canyon Ranch. Since Gore Canyon Ranch is a popular destination for visitors to fish and raft along the Colorado river, BLM is working to transform a section of the area into a wetland as a safe space for the abundant wildlife that migrates through each year. Keely studied as much as she could about the area through a range of data collection and surveys. “The area is beautiful and I learned so much,” Keely reflected. “I feel so lucky that I got to come here almost every day and conduct my research.”

Tifany Rubalcaba (left) helps BLM intern, Keely Watland, collect sagebrush near the Kremmling Field Office.

Tifany Rubalcaba, an EFTA intern in 2017, is an example of how EFTA helps connect youth to conservation. In 2018, she secured a permanent position as a Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist. Even more gratifying is that this year, she became Keely’s supervisor, bringing our internship program full circle. Tifany credits EFTA today for giving her this opportunity to work closely with federal agencies and ease the transition.

The lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the sciences and conservation has been a national issue for many years. EFTA has been a leader in finding ways of reaching youth and adults in the United States from diverse backgrounds and training future conservationists. EFTA’s programs provide its interns with opportunities to expand their skillset and achieve the career of their dreams.

Learn more about our internship opportunities here.

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