SUNIA-2013: A team from the very start

By AIC guest bloggers, Mariana C. Leon-Perez and Maria C. Lopez-Peña, 2013 Sunia interns in Puerto Rico

Maria and Mariana at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta on August 5, 2013.

Maria and Mariana at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta on August 5, 2013.

Maria and Mariana, this year’s 8th annual Governor Tauese P.F. Sunia Memorial Coral Reef Conservation Summer Interns, excelled as a team throughout their internship in Puerto Rico. Not only do these two young ladies share similar names and initials, they’re similar in background and even appearance. It could have not worked out better!

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge hosted Maria and Mariana for the summer, providing mentors and facilities for a successful internship. Support was also provided by the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Mariana worked on restoration projects in the Guánica Bay/Rio Loco Watershed and Maria assisted with wildlife-habitat restoration initiatives under USDA-USFWS agreements. Maria and Mariana participated in outdoor fieldtrips, inter-agency networking, camping, agricultural experiences, and traveling, all of which provided them with good experience and information. Both interns took advantage of each others’ skills, which resulted in overall achievement of internship goals and challenges.

Recently, both had the opportunity to visit the USFWS Southeast Regional Office in Atlanta, GA to present their projects and shadow USFWS staff. Maria and Mariana gained information about the agency and received career advice for wildlife conservation opportunities. They returned to Puerto Rico with a lot of inspiring feedback, experience, knowledge, and enthusiasm for promising professional careers in wildlife and natural resources management.