Xavier Ramirez always had an interest in science, but it wasn’t until his freshman year at Stockton University that his science professor sparked that interest into him wanting a career in Environmental Science. The degree that Xavier is pursuing is Environmental Science with a concentration in wildlife management. His goals are to work for an environmental agency to study how humans impact the ecosystems/environments and the animals that live in them.
When presented the opportunity to intern at New Jersey Audubon and the Plainsboro Preserve, Xavier hoped to learn what being a naturalist is like out in a work environment and to learn more about the wildlife that is in the preserve. The main responsibilities of the internship were bird monitoring, assisting and conducting educational programs, and feeding the animals used for educational purposes.
The bird monitoring consisted of monitoring bird boxes for bluebirds, house wrens, and tree swallow nests. Xavier spent time locating bird boxes and fixing their GPS coordinates, as a majority of them did not have the right coordinates to find them. He observed bird behavior, nesting, incubation and fledging of young. He kept data on bird/egg count and notes about bird behavior. Said Xavier, “I quickly took notice how different species of birds react when I was near their nests. Most bluebirds, if they spotted me, would fly out of their box and stay somewhat close while house wrens would chirp at me aggressively. Tree swallows would actually start dive bombing me when I got close to one of their nests. The funniest moment was when I was having trouble locating a bird box and all of a sudden, a tree swallow swooped down at me which unintentionally led me to the bird box.”
He also joined the lead naturalist on programs for children during summer camp. He assisted with lessons and activities, took notes, photos and videos. Because of this early summer exposure to teaching, Xavier planned and led a week of summer camp called “Junior Naturalists” and he conducted an ESL (English as a Second Language) class about the wildlife at the Plainsboro Preserve.
Upon reflection, Xavier said, “The week as a camp instructor was a great and rewarding experience. It wasn’t like babysitting as I had to plan a whole week of activities and lessons that had to both captivate the campers’ attention while also teaching them about nature and being a naturalist.”
When asked “How did this internship benefit you?”, Xavier replied, “This internship benefited me by giving me a hands-on experience with stewardship and what the daily responsibilities of a naturalist are.