Wenatchee!

http://whs.wsd.wednet.edu/Faculty/Retallic/webdesignclass/WenatcheeServes/image/contact_u1670.pngGreat news! we have a new opening for a Celebrate Shorebirds intern in Wenatchee, WA. Like the other internships, this intern will be focusing on engaging Latinos on conservation issues. This intern will be working with Team Naturaleza, a non profit that works with the Latino community around the area of Wenatchee, engaging them in informal environmental education. This is a great opportunity for anyone in the area and anybody who wants professional training and real life work experience.

The grant requires the intern to be between the ages of 18-25 and of Latino descent. EFTA provides a monthly stipend, and travel acommadations to the mandatory training in February in San Diego. We encourage locals to apply, because EFTA or Team Naturaleza will not provide housing at the site.

If you are interested or know someone who might be interested in the internship, apply here

Learn more about what Team Naturaleza does, like their page on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Team-Naturaleza/311748628919308?fref=ts

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Moving Forward

eggs in handI am happy to announce that I am officially bander certified by the North American Banding Council. The test took place in Ashland, OR and was a very rigorous, three-day exam consisting of four parts: a written, practical, specimen, and interview. We were tested on our ability to operate a banding station, set up/take down mist nets, identifying the common species, proper banding and adjustment, proper aging and sexing techniques, morphology measurements, the history of banding, correcting data sheets, bird morphology, avian first aid, and more. I can’t believe I’ve had to learn all of this in only two months! But It feels extremely rewarding to have accomplished it. In the beginning I didn’t know the first thing about banding and my songbird ID was limited. But now, I feel well equipped and confident with my banding, aging and sexing techniques and can no longer step outside without naming all the birdcalls I hear. It’s fantastic.

During the practical exam, I realized that this was the last time I would be banding in southern Oregon and the nostalgia kicked in. As I banded my last bird, which was a stunning northern flicker, I wondered, “What will a few days without handling birds be like? I can’t believe they won’t be what I’m surrounded by for half my day.” For the last few months, I’ve been working in the field, it’s been a busy time from the Oregon coast to Alaska and southern Oregon. Forest, tundra, ocean, and wild creatures have been what surrounds me. But now,I’m surrounded by quiet the opposite, cars, buildings, and many many people. After only three days outside of nature, it feels odd and its a big change… nonetheless it is a much needed break from the long hard working days in the field and the perfect time to spend with family.

So where do I go from here? To start, I plan on making a trip to my Peruvian home country during the winter or early spring. Not only am I excited to visit friends and family, but I’m also looking forward to participating in some banding outings with the Santa Eulalia Biological Station. Now that I have the bander certification, I want to take the next step in getting trainer certified, so that I can offer banding workshops while I am in Peru. Once I come back to the northern hemisphere, it will be the field season once again and I can’t wait to jump on some cool projects. Shortly after, I will be starting graduate school at Oregon State University. I will be involved in seabird telemetry, tagging and tracking petrels, fulmars, gulls, and more during the winter and breeding season. Not only this but I will also be in charge of vessel seabird counts and coordinating the reproductive success research on common murres out of Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area in Newport, OR.

I’m very excited for what 2015 has in store for me and meanwhile I will be enjoying lovely outings in beautiful Oregon for the rest of Fall.

Bird on!

Be the leader that you are

Robert G. Stanton, former Director of the National Park Service, came to speak at the University of Colorado. Mr Stanton grew up during the civil rights era of the 60’s. He was the first African-American National Parks Service Director. He went on to do many great things for the National Park Service, the American public, and in many ways, paved the road for people of color in the environmental field. He delivered a motivational talk on the history of the park services, the importance of the preservation of our parks and the importance of a diverse group of future stewards. He is what many would call a natural born leader and he knows exactly who he is. I am also very fortunate to know who I am. That is a strange thing to say, but at the same time how many of us can answered that with full clarity. On Wednesday morning I drove down to Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver, where I attended a workshop hosted by the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education and the Denver Foundation on inclusiveness in non-profits. The workshop was to be run by an Angela Park, founder of Mission Critical (look her up when you get the chance), advisor in some sense for the white house, and someone that looked like she knew her stuff, yet I didn’t know what to expect.

2013 EFTA Intern Michelle Mendieta (Left) 2015 EFTA Intern Carlos Lerma (Right)

2013 EFTA Intern Michelle Mendieta (Left) 2015 EFTA Intern Carlos Lerma (Right) at the CAEE and Denver Foundation workshop on non-profit inclusiveness.

The reason I share this with you is because of what I learned on that Wednesday at that workshop, that helped me shift my perspective. Angela Park opened her wonderful workshop with a very important message, consider yourself a leader in this field of inclusiveness. That’s it! I want to make sure that very single being, no matter what color, gender, age, orientation, belief or what, is in one way or another involved in conserving their beautiful earth and the creatures that live on it. Now that’s some inspiration! She added that we could not be effective leaders without “answering the why” and what she meant was, why is it important to your organization to become diverse (in all sense of the word), why is it to you. We all chuckled as she gave us some comedic renditions of previous environ groups she’s worked with struggling to answered the simple question of why; many of them not being able to conjure a reason that didn’t seem self-interested, but she said it’s okay if it’s a selfish reason as long as it’s YOUR reason. See that is what is most important; you can’t be inclusive because it is “the right thing to do,” while it is totally the right thing to do there has to be a clear, concrete reason that will guide your organization to inclusiveness. She continued on to talk about identity, as an individual, group, organization and so on. Now this is were I felt that a lot of us could learn more,  because the topic of identity is so complex and convoluted, I don’t think half of us even know what to call ourselves and others. That’s the thing about people, we can’t help but just label everything, and this was my problem. I Identify as Latino, very proud of it, and that’s how every person of any background should be, proud of it. The problem is when you let your group identity become your individual identity and maybe I had let my group identity slip a little into who I am as and individual. That’s why when Angela reminded us that while in some ways we might associate with the subordinate group, in others we might be part of an oppressive dominant group, whether conscious of it or not. Yes I am Latino, but I’m also a male and heterosexual, which give me big time privilege when it comes to certain things in life.

It is crucial for us moving forward that we all understand that we have some privilege in on way or another. I can’t disproportionately say that I am at a disadvantage because I am Latino, I have advantages in so many other ways. Mr. Stanton was an African-American student at Huston-Tillston University when he first started working for the Park Service, during arguably one of the most difficult times to be a person of color. Yet we can see now 50 years later, that back then he embraced his privilege and decided to be a leader; to know who he truly is and not let himself be defined as someone who is disadvantaged, but instead someone who through hard work and perseverance is a reminder, just like a monument is or a state park, to all of  us that we can all be leaders in the field of inclusiveness as long as we are willing to acknowledge and accept all the parts of who we are.

Open a New World

International Migratory Bird Day, Bird Day, Bird Festival, bird fest, Dia de las Aves Migratorias, Dia de las Aves, festival de aves

The International Migratory Bird Day 2014 poster theme- Why Birds Matter.

International Migratory Bird Day, Bird Day, Bird Festival, bird fest, Dia de las Aves Migratorias, Dia de las Aves, festival de aves

Dia Internacional de las Aves Migratorias 2014 afiche. International Migratory Bird Day poster.

Driving on my way home one day I received the important phone call from Natasha Kerr, the Celebrate Shorebirds internship coordinator. She called to let me know they decided to  offer me the position. I was shocked and I’m pretty sure Natasha could tell. After the initial muteness I said yes and she congratulated me and I said thank you and so on. Immediately after I had hung up the phone I started yelling with jubilee and and thrusting around in elation, could you imagine what that would look like when you’re stuck in traffic? But who wouldn’t react this way- right? After all I had been struggling to get my foot in the door after college, and now I’m staring what could be the catapult into an amazing career.

It was the metaphorical stepping through into a new world, and just like that I hit the floor running taking on the Back to School Night event at the Ridge Creek Mobile Home Community all by myself. I was running the International Migratory Bird Day 2014 themed activity- Why Birds Matter. This year’s IMBD theme focuses on the ecosystem services birds provide. I played the “Who AM I” bird game and colored masks with children. I met representatives of the CU Natural History Museum, Boulder and Lafayette Open space; Coordinators, activist, volunteers, parents and students all which shared this great moment in their community, and I was part of it! I felt like at last I was doing something I could go hang my hat on, and not go home feeling unaccomplished. I realize that in the grand scheme of things, from an outsiders perspective, teaching young children about birds might not look like a great achievement, but there is where the outsider is wrong. I understand the impact that all of us educators had on the life of those kids on that fall night.

EFTA table at Back to School event in Lafayette, CO

EFTA table at Back to School event in Lafayette, CO

During the event, I was telling my newly made friend Martin, from Lafayette Open Space, about the fact that later that week I was going birding for the first time. He told me numerous things about birding of which I probably couldn’t remember now, but there was one thing he said that resonated in me so clearly and now in my second week of my internship, I see it becoming a theme. He said “Birding will open up a new world, that you didn’t even know was there” and it did. Not only that, this internship opened a new world, the world where we actively engage in and acknowledge what matters, see Martin had hit it on the head; I had walked around not realizing that I myself could have been advocating for the voiceless all along, the birds, the habitats they live in, and the critters they share it with. The new world is there and very visible, the question is, will you step through for yourself and all the ‘others’ that depend on it?

When it rains, it sprinkles

It’s incredible how marked the difference in climate is with only a few hours of driving distance from the coast. For all of the days I spent dancing in the rain of Newport, I am now tanning in the endless sunshine of Oregon’s central valley. Of course, there are very logical geographic reasons for this–crossing the mountains one is already very aware of the new conditions that lie on the other side. However informed you may be, the body is still always in shock, helplessly succumbing to the new environmental pressures. Within a few days, I had already forgotten what rain felt like, the scents of dampened soil were nothing but a memory, and I suddenly feared of melting if a drop were to miraculously fall on me.

And then, in the blink of an eye, came the rain. It only lasted a day and a half, but while it poured it seemed like an endless affair. Here at the cabin we watched the skies beyond the tree tops anxiously, awaiting to learn of our fate for the next field day. In my coastal spirit, I ventured out into the storm on my bicycle, trying to brave the cold for a quick workout. I quickly learned how weakened my defenses were–within minutes I was a freezing mess. I must have looked like a street dog with its tail between its legs. The land has long since recuperated: the few drops that did hydrate an over-parched landscape were quickly absorbed. The community, however, was still recovering from the phenomenon. Even until now, it is the talk of the town. At the grocery store yesterday, the cashier exclaimed how unexpectedly early the rains started this year. Anyone from the Coast would chuckle–what’s the harm in a little rain?

Dramatized reactions set aside, the rain does have a very real implication for our work. Rains makes it quite difficult to safely extract birds from mist nets. Their feathers get wet and don’t slide off of the netting easily, putting the bird at risk of getting too cold. On days with a slight bit of rain, all field operations shut down and we have to wait it out. The next morning involved a lot of sitting around the cabin discussing whether or not the periodic pauses in the storm made is feasible to open up nets for an hour or two. The risk was deemed too high–many of our sites are at least 40 minutes of a drive away, and it can take about 30 minutes to set up the site once we arrive. In the process of simply preparing to capture and collect data on birds we were likely to meet face-to-face with a wet situation.

So what do Field Technicians do on a rainy day? We recover from weeks of data collection by finally entering data and then prepare for another couple of weeks of furious data collection. My colleagues spent a few hours meticulously typing in data and I helped where I could with editing some sheets, drying materials, and stocking our kit for the upcoming days in the field.

Meanwhile, I also snuck in a cooking session of camping food and loaded the car. We were setting off to an overnight-session in a site behind a wildlife refuge. This means that we drive out the afternoon prior to the banding session, camp in a small grassy area next to the maintenance parking lot, and wake up the next morning to walk past rehabilitated lions and bears on our way to the site before the crack of dawn. It’s ironic to think that these animals are in cages, secured away from the public, yet we are walking towards the back country where they roam freely. I often take a peak through the fences to attempt facing my fears of large mammals. The bears don’t seem to pay me any mind–they’re too busy scratching their backs against the trees–but the low roar of the mountain lion never puts my nerves at ease. The chances of running into one in the field are close to none, but I still make a small prayer that the upcoming site visit won’t be a first.

Braving the rain was worth it. The mist and dampened weather made it a slow day for us, but we caught site of many migrating species at the site. The Cedar Waxwings are in full swing right now, and we happened across a Western Tanager and a Common Yellowthroat. In the distance we could hear the calls of a Red-shouldered Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks, while an unidentified raptor (possibly a Cooper’s Hawk) soared overhead. Rain or not, the birds are still moving, and so are we in our quest to understand and protect them.

Bird on!