Today we launch a new blog series titled “I am ACE” (#IamACE), which aims to highlight the individual stories of ACE’s corps members and interns.
Our corps members and interns come from culturally diverse backgrounds across the United States and each has a unique story to tell. Common to all is the passion for our natural environment, and a desire to develop into a future land steward.
In the first of our #IamACE series we introduce you to Stephanie Emery, and ACE EPIC intern currently serving with the Bureau of Land Management in Ironwood Forest National Monument in southern Arizona.
We are excited to share Stephanie’s story.
[ACE] What is your background? Where are you from?
[SE] I am 22 years old. I’m born and raised in Seattle, Washington. I went to the University of Washington there. I just graduated last winter and studied environmental science, and focused on conservation.
What motivated you to be in conservation?
I am Native American–from Alaska. I grew up learning to be in tune with the land and with nature, and that motivated me to want to conserve our landscape. Growing up I really saw how people have been negatively impacting nature, and I really want to make a positive impact and try to restore our lands.
How did you find ACE?
I did an internship with AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society) who shares a similar mission with ACE. I met Hannah Wendel (ACE/EPIC internship Program Manager and Recruitment Specialist) through that position and she informed me about this internship, so I applied.
Can you tell me about the responsibilities you have for your internship?
We do a lot of trash pickup along the border. We monitor wildlife using cameras, and coordinate volunteers for different events. We install wash barriers to prevent people from driving off-road and causing erosion, install informative and regulatory signs, and also repair fences on the monument.
What has been one highlight and one challenge of your internship?
The highlight has been working outdoors. We see a lot of wildlife and Native American artifacts. We’ve seen lots of bighorn sheep, some foxes, lots of animals. I love being out here.
The volunteer coordinating can be challenging. We are facilitators in that setting, so we take on a lot of responsibilities. The volunteers often come in with their own ideas, so we have to work with them. They often ask us why we’re doing a project, so we have to reassess our reasoning and back it up. This can be a positive experience though, because if we were just given an assignment we may not even think about the reasoning behind it, whereas when we coordinate the volunteer events we really have to know what we’re doing and why.
What are your plans after this position? Goals for the future?
I took the GRE and I’m planning on going to graduate school for either Rangeland Ecology or Fire Ecology. Eventually I hope to end up with a full time position with the BLM, who I currently intern for. That’s one of the major organizations that I’ve aligned myself with.
So do you think this internship has helped you to prepare for that career?
Definitely, yeah. This internship has given me the long term experience that I need for my resume, compared to some of the other internships which I’ve done that have been much shorter. This internship is 9 months long. One of the benefits of this work is that it has given me close to a year of experience that I need for my resume to prove that I’m committed.
What do you feel sets ACE apart from other organizations?
ACE’s staff seems more closely connected and more helpful than what I’ve experience with other internships. During some internships I never even met any of the staff and no one contacted me throughout the time I was working. ACE’s staff is readily available. The internship durations are better, and they have more cooperation with different organizations like NPS and BLM, which is great for career moves.
So do you think it’s helped you professionally?
Yes it has, in that I’ve gained a lot of good connections within the BLM, who I want to get a career with them in the future. It’s also helped me with graduate school, because it brought me from Phoenix to Tucson and helped introduce me to people from the University of Arizona where I can hopefully study someday.
Any advice you’d give to someone considering a career in conservation?
ACE is a good starting point. I think I’d advise people to start by volunteering (I did a lot of volunteering which I felt helped me get in with ACE) then short internships, build up to longer term internships, and that can help you build the framework for a career in conservation.