Education Intern Contributes to Audubon Southwest Conservation Work

Plans to continue protecting native wildlife and nature habitats

It is hard to believe more than 10 weeks have already passed since I started as the new education intern at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center. It feels as if that time has really flown by! My time here may have felt short, but looking back, there was never really a dull moment.

Within my first week, I was trusted to represent Audubon Southwest at an arts festival where I got to tell people about the amazing work we do at the center, as well as meet representatives from local Audubon chapters and learned about the work they do. It was really cool to see people from different organizations talking and collaborating to reach common goals. Soon after that, I got the opportunity to lead an educational talk about native Arizona mammals to a group of local high school students who came to visit our center. It was a fun opportunity and reminded me of when I was young and would get excited to listen to educational talks about animals. I think those childhood experiences are what really pushed me into conservation, and I hope that I inspired at least one kid in that program to pursue conservation or biological science when they grow up.  

In addition to educating students, I was also given the opportunity to help lead our Saturday bird walks, which are free and open to anyone in the public. We saw many cool birds on these walks. These programs were also learning opportunities for me since we would find birds that I had never seen, like Common Yellowthroats or Orange Crowned Warblers.

Tommy helping out during the big Spring planting event at the new Pollinator Garden in March. Photo: Danny Roper-Jones/ Audubon Southwest

When I wasn’t leading an education program or representing Audubon Southwest at a community event, I was usually helping around the center with various projects. Planting our new pollinator garden was a big project that we spent a lot of time preparing for. I am glad I was able to help out with such a large undertaking. I was able to take charge on another project, which involved cataloging all the plant species growing at the center and mapping out where they are. This information was needed to make new signage for guests to read so they can learn about native plants. Although the signs are not ready yet, I am very proud to have helped with this process and it is probably the one thing I am most proud of doing while working here.  

The last project I will be working on at the center is a marshland bird survey which I am looking forward to since we will be using kayaks to reach less accessible areas.  

After this internship at the center, I will be moving onto an internship with the Arizona Game and Fish department where I will be conducting field work across the state. My ultimate passion is working outdoors and doing hands-on work to help conserve and protect native wildlife and natural habitats.

Tommy helps kids have up-close experiences with wildlife like our ambassador snake, Rufio, during a program with the Martin Luther King Jr. Center. Photo: Juliana Gomez/ Audubon Southwest

During my time here at Audubon, I have realized how important it is to educate the public and enlist everyday people to help protect wildlife. I know at some point in my life I might retire from fieldwork, and at that point I would love to get involved in education. Who knows? Maybe I’ll come work for the center again if they’ll have me!  

Overall, working here at the Audubon Center has been fun and quite fulfilling, especially after seeing visitor’s faces light up with excitement as they learn something new about their local wildlife and habitats. In conclusion, I enjoyed my time working here at the Rio Salado Audubon Center and I am grateful to them for giving me this opportunity.

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