01 Dec Farewell, South Dakota!
In the blink of an eye, my five months at Wind Cave National Park has come to an end. I have learned so much and grown so much during my time here. This internship has cemented my passion for wildlife and reconfirmed that this is the career field for me. Going to work everyday didn’t feel like work because I was doing things that I loved: hiking in the beautiful nature, observing magnificent wildlife, and working with a wonderful team of people.
Having worked with insects and birds, it was always a dream of mine to work with mammals. This internship made my dream come true because I had the opportunity to work directly with bison, black-footed ferrets, prairie dogs, elk, and more. There were many firsts for me, from performing a necropsy on a dead bison to trapping and handling endangered black-footed ferrets. I learned so many new skills that I will be able to carry with me as I continue my work in the wildlife profession.
In addition to working with wildlife, I never expected to learn how to cave as well! Wind Cave’s physical scientist, Marc Ohms, was so kind to let me accompany him on many caving trips. You never know what you’ll find along the way, from magnificent rooms of frostwork to handwriting dating back to the 1800s. “Rock climbing in the dark” was always a fun adventure, and I hope to continue caving after leaving Wind Cave.
I am so grateful to the people in the Resource Management division for being such a fun, supportive group. I am especially thankful to my supervisor, Angela Jarding, for leading by example and showing me what it means to be a strong, independent female wildlife biologist in this field. I also loved working with Hollie, Julia, and Jeremiah who made field work so enjoyable and were willing to share with me with me their years of experience. Field work at Jewel Cave and Mount Rushmore was also a lot of fun, and for that I thank Rene Ohms, Riannon Colton, and Kelly Mathis.
Lastly, I am so proud of the role I played as a woman of color park ranger. It was slightly daunting being one of the few staff of color in the park, but I felt extremely proud wearing my uniform and interacting with visitors from diverse backgrounds, allowing them to see that park rangers could also look like them. I am so grateful to the Mosaics in Science program for giving me this opportunity to increase the representation of the National Park Service workforce.
Up next for me, I plan to continue my work as a wildlife technician for federal agencies, hoping to work for the National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, or the US Forest Service. This internship has been a tremendous launching point for me and I can’t wait to continue my career in this field.