Zion National Park Cultural Resources Intern
As a Cultural Resources Intern at Zion National Park, Kiara “Kiki” Serantes is gaining the experience she’ll need to translate her writing and political skills into a career spent keeping the world’s wilderness safe from environmental negligence for at least the Next 100 years.
Why is the work you’re doing as a SCA intern at Zion National Park important?
The rich diversity of the world’s cultures reflects a corresponding diversity in the wilds that gave them birth.” – Aldo Leopold
We too often forget that our culture derives from the wilderness. My role as the cultural resources intern here at Zion National Park homes in on the unique correlation between the region’s cultural past and its present. My main task is editing the park’s vast archaeological information so that we can share Zion’s history with the public via the NPS Focus website. I explore Zion’s archaeological past, but I also work to conserve it for future generations. Whether it’s cleaning up the graffiti plaguing the ancient artwork and structures, or helping document new sites, my internship allows me to rekindle the forgotten relationship between culture and the natural world so that the public may better understand our place in Earth’s biotic pyramid.
What motivates you to serve the planet?
I’m motivated to serve because we don’t have forever to reverse the degrading mistakes of our past. Because what is a life lived without wilderness? Because climate change and human greed threaten to unpin a beautiful creation millions of years in the making, and because the only lasting legacy I wish to see from humankind is truly one of that nature — kindness, and that to all facets of the Earth we share.
What’s your SCA story?
Although I’m majoring in political science, I’ve always been passionate about conservation and preservation. After taking an ecological thought class at Gonzaga University and reading the transformative works of Henry David Thoreau, John Muir and Aldo Leopold, I was inspired to take the next step. The professor of the course suggested the Student Conservation Association, as it incorporates diverse disciplines, underscoring the necessity of broad cooperation in the fight against wilderness destruction. Something has to be done now to remind us that environmental degradation impacts us all. I’m lucky to be apart of an organization set on raising a new generation of conservationists.
What’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen or been involved in the great outdoors?
When you live in small-town Alaska, everywhere you go is the great outdoors. It was not unusual to see bears on your way to school or whales swim through the bay. One winter, my family and I went camping only to find that the bears were not yet hibernating. I remember snuggling up to my brother (who normally would have punched me if I got that close) after it was clear a bear was in the nearby creek searching for food. Luckily, we had been smart enough to tie our cooler up in a tree.
What’s your favorite park or other outdoor space?
When I was four or five — and living in Prince of Wales, Alaska — my family and I would go fishing at the local creek more times than I can remember. That’s where I caught my first fish, and it’s also where I realized the importance of nature. It may not sound “amazing,” but as the blonde-haired daughter of a single Cuban-American mother and the sister of an African-American half-brother, out by that creek was often the only place I felt we could be without judgmental eyes. That creek gave us fresh salmon to eat when the only thing we could afford was ramen. Not only was I able to spend time with my family, but I could explore both the wilderness within and the wilderness without.
What’s your next earthsaving goal?
As a political science and journalism student, I plan to expand conservation efforts through advocacy, awareness and persistence. I hope to dabble in environmental journalism before returning to grad school for environmental politics. In the long run, I’d like to work for an NGO or advocacy agency — such as the Nature Conservancy or 350.org — to continue the fight against environmental negligence. A significant goal of mine is to travel around the world and, using my skills and love of feature writing, document how climate change is effecting our neighbors around the world in their everyday lives. This dream manifests as a result of the knowledge that environmental degradation disproportionately effects underprivileged populations.