People Protect What They Love


Through Community Outreach, SCA Member Sarika Khanwilkar shares her love for Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge

“People Protect What They Love” – Jacques Cousteau

This is my favorite quote from one of the most iconic and recognizable names in conservation. These five words describe my own journey towards becoming a Student Conservation Association intern. I have fallen in love with discovering the diversity that inhabits this planet, and being immersed in the natural environment.

My joy and excitement for fieldwork is hardly lacking, which is apparent above on my first air boat ride. This amazing vehicle allows us access to remote areas of the northern everglades.

These kinds of personal experiences with the environment are what inspire individuals to become land stewards. My SCA internship at the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge has shown me how conservation lands have the potential to become venues for connecting the community to the natural environment that surrounds them, as well as its wild inhabitants. This vital Refuge habitat was first set aside by community members who had the foresight to protect the land amongst the unceasing development that now characterizes Florida. It’s important to continue that historical connection to the land. I help achieve this goal by participating in the environmental education and outreach programs that the Hobe Sound Nature Center undertakes.

Spirit, an injured Red-Tailed Hawk, visits a classroom to provide an engaging, multi-sensory experience. This was my first time dissecting owl pellets, a journey I shared with 20 second graders.

Holding a reptile (or two) is a regular part of my day.

A volunteer introduces a snake, which have (underservedly) bad reputations. A common reaction to any reptile is disgust, and people love to calls snakes “slimey.” In fact, we are the “slimey” (oily) animals. A snake can slither through the sand without picking up a single grain, while a human trip to the beach can end in a car full of sand without a thorough rinse!

Armed with knowledge and clipboards, young visitors set out to find what lives within the sand pine scrub ecosystem. Wide eyes, huge smiles, and loads of excitement result each time a new critter is discovered.

This loggerhead sea turtle is laying her eggs on the Refuge beach, an annual event which has surely become a lifelong memory for these lucky observers. (The Nature Center is permitted to conduct turtle walks for the public.)

The discovery of new animals and behaviors sparks the imagination and ignites the curiosity for what else lives on our planet. 

My SCA internship allows me to directly impact people’s lives by providing rewarding experiences in a truly natural place that I love. Through those experiences, I hope to inspire a similar love in others, and even a passion for the conservation of wildlife, because, really, “people protect what they love.”


Inspire another young conservationist… and safeguard our parks today!

Help students like Sarika protect parks today and emerge as nature’s stewards for tomorrow.


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