Growing up in Houston, Stacey Kinney says she only saw ducks on office park ponds. Now, here she was at Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge in Lambert, Mississippi, netting and banding them by the dozen.
“Getting one of those little silver bands on is not easy,” Stacey declares. “The ducks start flapping like mad and don’t even listen when you tell them to calm down!”
A university senior majoring in conservation, Stacey recently completed a three-month term in the Career Discovery Internship Program (CDIP). Offered jointly by SCA and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, CDIP connects culturally and ethnically diverse college students to wildlife-focused professions across the country. As these SCA alumni advance through their professions, they will help to guide the direction of their employers and hometowns while forging a more inclusive conservation community.
Despite her struggles wading through mucky marshes – “you won’t believe how many times I got stuck!” – Stacey is confident her work made a difference, and not just for the birds. “Duck banding provides necessary information for game bird management,” she states. “It really brings home the importance of the work you’re doing.
“SCA has played in big part in my gaining an understanding of nature that goes beyond just its beauty, and it has gotten me closer to a career goal of mine: a job with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”
A thousand miles away, fellow CDIP intern Mary Nghe scans the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia and sees the issue. Overwhelmingly, she notes, most of her colleagues are White. “A more diverse staff will give the youth of the community someone to look up to,” Mary says. “They’ll think, ‘wow, I could be him or her one day.’
“When your staff is predominately one ethnicity, children tend to assume that those occupations are only for that sole ethnicity.”
Mary’s roles at Heinz ranged from biological research to visitor services, but the pharmacy major wasn’t sure how they’d fit into her own career plans until discussing it with her supervisor, deputy refuge manager and SCA alumna Mariana Bergeson. “Mariana recommended Nature Rx. It’s a program where doctors prescribe time outdoors to their patients,” says Mary, who is now exploring the concept with her advisor at Philadelphia’s University of the Sciences.
Stacey Kinney is also back at school now, wrapping up her final year at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. And with her SCA experience still fresh in her mind, this self-proclaimed “conservationist-in-training” can’t wait to write her life’s next chapter. “I truly believe,” she says, “in working hard toward a common goal of saving habitat, wildlife and our limited resources.”
See Mary Nghe’s video recap of her SCA experience here.