JBU Student Educates Visitors at Wildlife Center
By Tarah Thomas '16
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Kelly Escarcega, a senior at John Brown University, visited the Ozark National Forest, where she discovered and discussed the forest’s deterioration with a park ranger.
“I started noticing that things I had seen as a child were no longer there,” Escarcega said. “I’ve always been interested in learning about forestry, but I hadn’t necessarily always done anything about it.”
Escarcega’s passion and willingness to help wildlife is what inspired her to accept a summer internship at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Center in Saginaw, Mich. as part of the Cultural Resources Diversity Internship Program.
The internship program, funded through the National Wildlife Refuge System, seeks to connect “undergraduate and graduate students from under-represented communities to career opportunities with the National Park Service and other institutions.”
Escarcega worked as a visitor intern at the wildlife center, ensuring that visitors were not only welcome but that they had the best experience at the refuge, through fishing, trail walking, bird watching and other activities.
“The main part of my job was to develop environmental education programs for children,” Escarcega said. “I planned and hosted events, led walks, created activities so kids can learn about different types of birds, and partnered with local schools or universities, especially education majors.”
With over 10,000 acres near the Great Lakes, the Shiawassee National Wildlife Center acts as a stopover site for birds specifically waterfowl and geese migrating from Canada to different parts of North America.
The refuges’ main purpose is to maintain habitat for the species by tracking the impact of the environment, especially the plants that aren’t native to the land. But, the refuge also cultivates a relationship with the community.
Escarcega used the skills she’s learned from double majoring in history and intercultural studies at JBU to identify the needs of the community and to understand the contextual background of the refuge.
“I gave value to information as something that is not just in the past, but that has affected the way it is now,” Escarcega said. “This internship was the beginning of what it actually looks like to be a good steward of the earth, of what has been given to you, instead of learning about it. The smallest thing, that we do, affects everything around us.”
Escarcega hopes to pursue a graduate degree in forestry or Middle Eastern studies, and maybe one-day work at a National Park. This is just one step closer to making a difference.
(Top) Kelly Escarcega, a visitor intern at the Shiawassee National Refuge, helps monitor the refuge's environment to create a sustainable habitat for various species stopping over during migration. Escarcega also facilitated tours and activities to ensure guests have a great experience.
(Bottom) Kelly Escarcega welcomes a group of visitors as she explains more about the Shiawassee National Refuge, which has 10,000 acres near the Great Lakes in Saginaw, Mich.