MANRRS creates opportunities for WSU student

By Carmen Chandler, CAHNRS Academic Programs

This past summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) to provide students with 12-week internships in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii. Each program location offered a different experience, matching students’ interests and career goals with the department that best fitted their needs.

A woman stands in front of a kitchen sink looking into a metal bowl.
WSU student Suzena Arias works at her internship collecting diet samples to look for predation on juvenile salmon in Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish.

The internship began with one week of preparation where students became familiar with the history of the projects that they would be assisting with. This allowed them to get acclimated to their new environments and build relationships with their coworkers. The remainder of the internship was spent in the field aiding in research and tracking and tagging wildlife.

The internship improves students’ technical skills in the field while promoting their professional development. In the past, students were offered federal hiring workshops through U.S Fish and Wildlife Service that focused on resume and interview skills. These workshops were not required, but highly encouraged to help students navigate finding a job after graduation.

Junior wildlife ecology and conservation student Suzena Arias participated in this summer’s internship and recounted her experiences. Arias’ internship focused on collecting diet samples to look for predation on juvenile salmon in Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish. Interns were trained to implement external radio tags, collect data, and take notes for the project leads.  The team also identified the size and sex of Olympic mudminnows, using dog food to attract the minnows.

“I got stuck in the mud!” Arias said. “It’s a pretty messy job, but it was really fun.”

The internship required a lot of field work, hiking, and being outdoors. Arias also gained skills outside of field work, sharpening her public speaking skills through a presentation about her summer with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This presentation allowed Arias to share her experiences while listening to feedback about the internship and how to take the next steps in her career.

Pursuing a degree in wildlife ecology and conservation gives students a broad field of career options. Much like other interns, Arias entered this internship with little to no experience in the field. The internship is intended to give students like her an opportunity to explore different projects and expand skills and knowledge in the field. Because of this experience, Arias was able to narrow down her interests and confirm her desire to continue down this career path.

“Nothing felt better than being outdoors and helping with the conservation of salmon, bull trout, and other species,” she said.

Arias initially hesitated when applying for the program, unsure if she should pursue this opportunity. After having this experience, she urges any students interested in wildlife to pursue opportunities with MANRRS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.