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EPIC Intern

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#IamACE | Bailey Bates

Bailey Bates, Direct Hire Authority (DHA) Range Management Specialist intern for the BLM in Farmington, NM.

[ACE]: Please explain your main duties as a DHA Intern.

[BB]: I am a range management specialist intern for the BLM in Farmington, NM. My main duties include collecting data for range trend monitoring and writing up Allotment Management Plans. I am also monitoring sagebrush treatments for both pre and post treatments.

Can you tell me about your background?

I am originally from Tohatchi, NM where I attended high school. For college I went to Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, NM, and then transferred to New Mexico State University where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Range Science in May 2016. Growing up I had always loved being outdoors and which is where I’m usually at during my free time.


How did you find out about ACE, and what attracted you to this position?

I found out about ACE through my college advisor while attending NMSU. What attracted me to this position is that it was pertaining to what I was getting my degree in. Also the location added a lot with being close to home in New Mexico.

Can you tell me a highlight and a challenge that you’ve had so far during your internship?

The biggest highlight so far within this position is finishing my first Allotment Management Plan; it was the longest I had written up so far which included 11 different plots for the past six years. Another highlight was while out in the field one day driving to our next plot, two turkeys just walked right in front of us crossing the road. They did not care to run off once they seen us, I thought it was a pretty cool sight. One challenge that I do face on a regular basis is locating the plots, at times the GPS points will be off, or it had not been recorded in previous years. On one plot I remember we were utilizing a photo that was taken in 1994; the area had changed so much since then. Some plots we are able to find using photos and updated GPS points, while a few are still unable to be located.

Any goals for when you complete your internship?

I would love to start my career off with the BLM working in range. I am thankful that I had received this opportunity working with ACE to help me get starting working with the BLM. Over the past weeks I have learned so much working both out in the field and in the office. I look forward to extending that knowledge in years to come!

Do you have any advice you’d give to someone looking to join EPIC or get into this field?

My advice would be if given the opportunity; TAKE IT! EPIC is a great organization, I am glad that I am able to get this experience learning more in my field. Not only will you extend your knowledge, but you get to have fun while doing so!


#IamACE | Cristobal Castaneda

Can you tell me about your background?

I was born in Mexico. I lived there until I was 9 years old. At that point my family moved to the United States and we’ve been living here in Martinez California ever since. I’m 23 years old and I’m currently attending Diablo Valley Community College in a nearby city.

In my high school they had a program called A New Leaf—A sustainable living collaborative. It’s kind of a combination of typical high school classes and also hands-on experiential learning. That program is actually what got me interested in outdoor fields and careers, and it’s what got me my internship with the National Park Service.

What got you interested in conservation initially?

There’s always been something inside of me that’s been drawn to the outdoors. I think that moving from Mexico to Martinez, CA plays a big part as well. In Mexico, I was only familiar with the urban environment: streets and stone houses, not much scenery. So coming here and being surrounded by undeveloped open hills and spaces is what got me interested in the outdoors. It made me think, “Wow! The world is so much different than what I’m used to!” Now I love going on bike rides to the marina downtown, going to parks, learning about new plants, birds, and insects, those sorts of things.

Can you tell me about a highlight and a challenge you’ve had during your internship?

The challenge has been getting used to working with a federal agency. Also, this is one of the first jobs I’ve had—before this I had just worked for family, or done side jobs here and there but I had never really had an official job. So getting used to all the aspects of a job like time management, being organized with all the paperwork, that’s been difficult.

As part of the work I do for this internship I get to work with high school students who are trying to figure out what they want to do in life. For me undoubtedly the biggest highlight is when I get to see people having fun in our National Parks and being outside and enjoying themselves. To be able to give that experience to other young people is by far one of the best things I’m able to do. I feel very lucky to be able to be a mentor.


What other tasks are part of your internship?

A few examples are the photo point monitoring project and the phenology project. For the photo point monitoring project, we take specific snapshots of a landscape and track how it changes over time. We photograph an area and record whether there is erosion or if invasive plants are growing.

The phenology project involves the study of living organisms and how they interact with the changing seasons. Birds migrating and plants blooming are some examples. We are studying the life cycle of different organisms. There is a California Phenlogy Project that monitors the native California plants and environmental changes. We use data sheets and smartphone apps to record any changes in the life cycles of the plant. For example: whether it has new flowers, leaves, or fruit. We observe the plant as it grows. All of our research goes to the database online, which is analyzed by scientists at the University of Santa Barbara. That data is passed on to other scientists and they publish newsletters and articles about what we’re finding. The most consistent discovery is that spring is coming 2 or 3 weeks earlier now. It’s a very hands-on project.


Do you have any goals for the future when you’re done with this internship?

Absolutely! I want to work on as many public lands as possible. I’d love to work at Point Reyes or Golden Gate, Pinnacles or Yosemite. I think Yosemite would be my dream job. I’d like to become an NPS ranger. I want to be involved in the natural resource conservation. Aside from teaching young people my passion is protecting the environment and protecting these resources for the benefit of everyone.

Do you think this position has helped you prepare for those goals?

Yes, without a doubt. My supervisor, who is an NPS ranger, has given me so many opportunities to explore different parks and to become more familiar with the structure of the National Park Service. He’s given me the opportunity to be out in the field and to try all these new things even if I don’t yet have the background in it. He’s been kind enough to allow me to learn from him and practice these skills and really start to get my foot in the door by allowing me to experience what it’s actually like to work in this field. Everything I’ve done in this job so far has contributed to my personal development. I’ve improved in so many ways thanks to this internship.

What do you think sets ACE apart from other organizations?

The staff is really flexible, understanding, and supportive. Even though their headquarters are in Utah, they still do everything they can to make sure my immediate problems are addressed.

Do you have any advice you’d give to someone who’s interested in EPIC or looking to get into conservation?

I’d say don’t be hesitant to try new things. I had never worked in the field of conservation or with a federal agency, but I took the opportunity to try it. If you’re thinking about ACE or other programs like this, don’t feel like you necessarily have to have the experience or the degrees, the most important thing is your commitment to the program, and your willingness to learn and apply yourself.

ACE EPIC Volunteer Service Projects

Welcome to a roundup of recent volunteer service projects organized and conducted by our ACE EPIC members. Over the summer ACE EPIC members logged volunteer hours from Arizona to Florida, and many places in-between. Below we feature the details of three of these volunteer service projects:

Restoration at Grand Canyon South Rim Lodges
Grand Canyon Village, AZ.

Despite finicky weather conditions, AmeriCorps member and ACE intern Jennifer Reeder and 10 volunteers logged 160 hours over the course of two days in Mid-August 2015. The original plan was to pull invasive plants and then sow native plant seeds in the restoration areas around two lodges in the South Rim (Thunderbird and Kachina Lodges) over the course of two days. Before the project took place however, Jennifer coordinated with the Grand Canyon Native Plant Nursery knowing the weather conditions were not in favor of working outdoors for two days. A volunteer commented that although things didn’t go as planned, it was still a favorite volunteer event, “Weeding, seeding, transplanting… so much variety in our activities!” Thanks to Jennifer’s problem solving skills, she ended up providing them more experience than originally planned. Reeder also encouraged creativity in her volunteers while they sowed the seeds, she said “They started making shapes: snakes, polka dots, common park petroglyphs!” The aesthetics of the park have been creatively enhanced thanks to Reeder and her team of volunteers.

Invasive Reptile Presentation at Camp Manatee
Miami, FL.

Camp Manatee outreach,Molly Conway_ pic3

In early July 2015, Molly Conway, an AmeriCorps member and ACE intern, gave an informative invasive reptile presentation to a group of young campers at Camp Manatee. Around 60 kids, aged from 6 to 14 years old listened intently about the reasons why invasive reptiles thrive in South Florida, and the negative consequences they have on the Everglades. In order to keep the kids engaged, Molly was able to bring a live Argentine Tegu and a juvenile Burmese Python. The up close encounter gave the kids an opportunity to see physical traits up close, like the Tegu’s long sharp claws that are used to dig up native turtle eggs. This was an important presentation, because it demonstrated that although small juvenile reptiles can seem to be appropriate pets, they grow to be very large and end up becoming another addition to the multitude of invasive species in Florida.

Camp Manatee outreach, Molly Conway_pic1

Pennington Creek Park Clean Up
Tishomingo, OK


On September 26th, 2015 Ben Shamblin and Brent Wilkins, AmeriCorps members and ACE interns coordinated a volunteer project for removing trash and debris that was washed into Pennington Creek Park after recent floods. A crew of local inmates also participated in painting over graffiti and weeding problem areas around the trails. After the participation of 31 volunteers, an inmate crew, and a 4-hour window for cleanup, the collaboration had the park looking spotless just in time for the National Chickasaw Festival that was held in Pennington Creek Park on October 2-3.



Meet an ACE Intern

Meet Cristobal Castaneda, Youth Programs Assistant Intern at John Muir National Historic Site

Cristobal Castaneda is an incredible ACE intern at the John Muir National Historic Site in the San Francisco Bay Area. He first began as a youth volunteer for John Muir National Historic Site before starting as the ACE Youth Program Assistant Intern in January 2015. While gathering and cataloging phenology data, supporting high school volunteers with the New Leaf Program, and reaching out to the public, he plays an instrumental role at the site.

Cristobal Castaneda

Part of his role includes working with under-represented teenage groups in order to promote jobs working with public lands, and whilst undertaking this he has demonstrated his amazing skillset. To date Cristobal’s projects have included leading tours, conducting interviews with park guests, working directly with youth volunteers, managing restoration teams, and advocating for National Parks.

Cristobal is a stellar example of how passion and dedication to the ACE and National Park Service mission contributes to personal success, professional development, and a really good time!