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#IamACE | Bailey Bates

Bailey Bates, Direct Hire Authority (DHA) Range Management Specialist intern for the BLM in Farmington, NM.

[ACE]: Please explain your main duties as a DHA Intern.

[BB]: I am a range management specialist intern for the BLM in Farmington, NM. My main duties include collecting data for range trend monitoring and writing up Allotment Management Plans. I am also monitoring sagebrush treatments for both pre and post treatments.

Can you tell me about your background?

I am originally from Tohatchi, NM where I attended high school. For college I went to Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, NM, and then transferred to New Mexico State University where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Range Science in May 2016. Growing up I had always loved being outdoors and which is where I’m usually at during my free time.

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How did you find out about ACE, and what attracted you to this position?

I found out about ACE through my college advisor while attending NMSU. What attracted me to this position is that it was pertaining to what I was getting my degree in. Also the location added a lot with being close to home in New Mexico.

Can you tell me a highlight and a challenge that you’ve had so far during your internship?

The biggest highlight so far within this position is finishing my first Allotment Management Plan; it was the longest I had written up so far which included 11 different plots for the past six years. Another highlight was while out in the field one day driving to our next plot, two turkeys just walked right in front of us crossing the road. They did not care to run off once they seen us, I thought it was a pretty cool sight. One challenge that I do face on a regular basis is locating the plots, at times the GPS points will be off, or it had not been recorded in previous years. On one plot I remember we were utilizing a photo that was taken in 1994; the area had changed so much since then. Some plots we are able to find using photos and updated GPS points, while a few are still unable to be located.

Any goals for when you complete your internship?

I would love to start my career off with the BLM working in range. I am thankful that I had received this opportunity working with ACE to help me get starting working with the BLM. Over the past weeks I have learned so much working both out in the field and in the office. I look forward to extending that knowledge in years to come!

Do you have any advice you’d give to someone looking to join EPIC or get into this field?

My advice would be if given the opportunity; TAKE IT! EPIC is a great organization, I am glad that I am able to get this experience learning more in my field. Not only will you extend your knowledge, but you get to have fun while doing so!

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#IamACE | Hema Lochan

Hema Lochan, Media and Curatorial Intern at the Zion Human History Museum in Zion National Park

[ACE]: What do you do here in your EPIC internship?
[HL]: I am a Media and Curatorial Intern at the Zion Human History Museum in Zion National Park! I’ve helped digitize the herbarium collection at the museum, I am working on updating the website, and creating finding aids for researchers! I’ve also been learning hands-on skills, such as how to handle and work with artifacts!

Can you tell me about your background?
I grew up in a very different place – New York City, so working in the national park has been a dream! I just graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Anthropology and a certificate in Environmental Studies.

How did you find out about ACE, and what attracted you to this position?
I’ve always wanted to with the NPS, and I love museums, so this became a perfect fit! I had never been to Utah before, and I always wanted to learn how the behind-the scenes of museums functioned! I’ve been learning all this and more while I’ve been here.

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Can you tell me a highlight and a challenge that you’ve had so far during your internship?
I’ll tell the challenge first – when I got here, I was surprised that there was not much on the native culture on the land and its history. There were a lot of visitors, but they were not really focused on learning about the tribes that were here before Zion became a National Park. But that leads into the highlight – I’ve been learning so much about it here at the museum and trying to share what I’ve learned with others. For example, Zion National Park was originally Mukuntuweap National Monument before it was renamed – its original name came from the tribes that lived in the canyon before other settlers called it home as well!

Any goals for when you complete your internship?
I’d love to see the new museum website updated with the new information and finding aids! I hope the hands-on experience I’ve learned here will help me in other museums and collections!

Do you have any advice you’d give to someone looking to join EPIC or get into this field?
DO IT! There is so much that goes behind the scenes in a museum – from inventory, to making sure artifacts aren’t damaged, to cataloging new accessions. You will never be bored because there is so much to learn and so much really interesting things to get involved in.

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#IamACE | Jendrik Hohn

Jendrik Hohn, and International Volunteer with ACE California, working on the Ventana Wilderness Alliance Silver Peak Wilderness Trails Project.

[ACE] Can you tell me about your background?

[JH] I’m 19 and I’m from Germany. I’ve been with ACE for 2 months. I graduated from high school last year in a small city near Bremen.

How did you find ACE?

On the Internet. There were many different opportunities that I learned about—volunteer work, au pair, work and travel, things like that. I finally found this volunteer opportunity in America: ACE!

What interested you in this position?

I didn’t want to be away from home for too long, and this program allowed me to do a 3-month program. I wanted to do something in nature, and something that was totally different from what I’ve been doing so far. It’s free, and I can do something that’s sustainable.

Can you tell me about a highlight and a challenge so far?

My highlight was Yosemite National Park. I went there on my off days with other people from ACE. I also really like this project we’re on now, there’s a great view, you can go into the ocean every day after work, it’s really cool.

The whole program has been challenging. You’re in a different country with foreign people. You have to adapt, speak the other language the whole time. I think this whole thing has been a challenge for me, but I’m glad I’ve done it.

Do you think this position has helped you prepare for the future?

Yeah, of course. I feel like I am more open-minded towards other people. Some people I would have never spoken with in Germany for example. You get more independent and flexible.

What do you think sets ACE apart from other organizations?

Everything is nice to each other. I didn’t expect that. I got to know about 40 people now, and everyone’s so nice. The work is fun although it’s hard. Nice people, nice work, what else do you want!

Do you have any advice for someone thinking about joining ACE or looking to get into conservation?

I recommend it to everyone who wants to try it, even people who are afraid of doing something alone. It’s good because you’ve got a lot of time and fresh air to think about everything. You can hear opinions of other people about what they want to do in the future and you can compare views.

#IamACE | Luka Bresseel

In this week’s installment we are joined by Luka Bresseel, an ACE California International Volunteer from Belgium. We caught up with Luka earlier in the year when he was working on the Silver Peaks Wilderness Trails Project in the Ventana Wilderness.

International volunteer positions are offered in our California and North Carolina branches. See our International Volunteer Program page for more details.

[ACE] Can you tell me about your background?

[LB] I’m from Belgium. I studied commerce. I’ve finished school last year and this year I’m taking a gap year.

How did you find out about ACE?

Through another organization in Belgium that has different projects around the world. They contact ACE and send volunteers.

What interested you about this kind of work?

I wanted to come to America, especially California. I was excited to combine meaningful work with fun stuff as well—like traveling. We’re going on a road trip soon to the Grand Canyon and Death Valley as well. The work can be really hard sometimes. All day in the sun! But it’s fun too. We have an awesome view to go along with the hard work.

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Can you tell me about a highlight and a challenge of your term?

My highlight would be the awesome views during work and at camp, and the beautiful sunsets.

A challenge would be the blisters!

Do you have any goals for the future when you’re done with ACE?

I want to start studying at the university. Here you’re away from the Internet, no contact with people you know. You have a lot of time to think about what you want in life.

Do you think this position has helped prepare you for the future?

Yeah, definitely. It’s changed the way I think about things. You need to be motivated all the time. Sometimes it’s a little bit rough but you just have to keep going. I think it’s helped my work ethic. So in the future I might think “I was in Ventana working all day, I can study at a desk for two hours!”

What sets ACE apart from other organizations?

The crew leaders and project partners are really nice and helpful. It’s a nice atmosphere. They’re more like friends and less like your boss.

Do you have any advice for someone who’s thinking about joining ACE or thinking about getting into conservation?

Definitely try it. It’s a good experience.

#IamACE | Alvin Rosa

ACE EPIC Intern Alvin Rosa, San Francisco Maritime Exhibit and Interpretation Intern, tells us about his internship, and how that will contribute to his career in anthropology.

[ACE]: What do you do here in your EPIC internship?

[AR]: I arrange artifacts for display, and maintain and repair all the displays throughout the park. It’s my job to help keep the park running in that way.

Can you tell me about your background?

I’m from Southern California. I went to school there and graduated from University of California, Riverside with a degree in Anthropology, specifically Mesoamerican Archeology.

How did you find out about ACE, and what attracted you to this position?

I was looking for a position that was related to my major of Archeology and Anthropology and relevant to that field. I found the listing for this position as an Exhibit Curator Intern and thought it fell within that realm. I thought it would allow me to gain a different perspective on Anthropology by adding the aspects of preservation and conservation.

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Can you tell me a highlight and a challenge that you’ve had so far during your internship?

A highlight is that I’ve been working with some great people. The NPS staff makes it easy for an intern like myself who came in without knowing anything about curatorship, or exhibits, or the park itself. They have guided me and have fueled my interest in what goes on here behind the scenes at the museum. I’ve always had a fascination with ships and the sea itself. Through my internship here I have gained a newfound respect for the people who maintain and repair these historic vessels.

However, learning all this new information has also been a challenge. Everything that’s done here is done in a very specific way, and all the exhibits relate to each other, so it can be difficult to keep everything cohesive.

Any goals for when you complete your internship?

I have begun applying for graduate school. I want to pursue a doctorate degree in Anthropology. The experience I’ve gained during this internship will definitely play a big role in my future. Not just during my studies, but afterwards if I seek out a museum related job.

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Why exactly has the internship been beneficial for you?

I’ve had experience with archeology as far as the excavation of artifacts, but this position allows me to see the next step of the process, when the artifacts are displayed to the public. This has been the first step towards building my career in Anthropology.

What do you think sets ACE apart from other organizations?

I like that this opportunity is offered to students finishing their undergraduate studies. It’s definitely a career builder. These internships give you an edge and a framework to find a job. The ACE staff is some of the best people I’ve interacted with. They set the guidelines of the position and make it easy for anyone to follow. That’s what I like about the EPIC program.

Do you have any advice you’d give to someone looking to join EPIC or get into this field?

This is the first step. If you want to get into this field, this is a great place to get perspective. It definitely gave me an idea of what it’s like to work for a government organization.

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#IamACE | Mercy Iyere

This week’s IamACE features Mercy Iyere, ACE Arizona Corps Member. Mercy had very little outdoor experience before coming to ACE and now she has learned so much during her time at ACE.

[ACE]: Can you tell me about your background?

[MI]: I’m from Atlanta, Georgia. I spent a good chunk of my life in the metro Atlanta area. Right before I came to ACE I graduated with a degree in geology from Georgia State University. I’m 23 and I’ve been with ACE since October, so about 5 months.

What motivated you to get into conservation?

Right after high school I considered doing Americorps NCCC for a while, but for various reasons decided against it. Having completed college, this is my next chance to do something like that, but I didn’t want to do NCC anymore, I wanted to do something more specifically related to the environment. And that’s when I found ACE, through the corps network.

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Can you tell me about one highlight and one challenge of your term so far?

My challenge was my first physically demanding hitch. My first few projects were seed-collecting and we didn’t use that many tools. But my third hitch was a fencing project in Saguaro. It was the first hitch I’d been one where we needed to use tools, we had a lot of hiking, it was very physical. The beginning was definitely a struggle because I wasn’t used to doing that kind of work. Before ACE, I wasn’t very outdoorsy. I’d only ever gone hiking a few times.

A highlight was when I was working on the Pinal County trails project. It was the first night that I made a fire 100% on my own. It was like, “Oh my gosh! I’ve learned so much about being outdoors and being independent and proactive.”

Any plans for the future when you’re done with ACE?

No concrete plans right now. Hopefully I’ll get a job in environmental geology.

Do you think ACE has helped prepare you for the future?

Absolutely, because a lot of entry-level geology jobs are outside doing fieldwork. I think after ACE I can definitely handle working with equipment outside.

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What do you think sets ACE apart from other organizations?

From other jobs that I’ve had and from other corps that I see, the thing that sets ACE apart is the variety. Not just the fact that there are new people coming in every single day, but we’re not limited to projects just in Arizona—we can work on projects all over the southwest. It’s unpredictable. That makes it pretty exciting.

Do you have any advice to people looking to join ACE or who are interested in conservation?

I’d say be adaptable, and be prepared to look on the bright side. For example, sometimes you have to wake up early in the morning and it’s cold and you’re annoyed. But if you’re focused on being annoyed, you’re not going to notice how beautiful the sky looks.

#IamACE | Katt Lundy

For this week’s #IamACE, we met up with Katt Lundy, an Assistant Crew Leader (ACL) with ACE Arizona, working on the Meder Canyon Trails Project in the City of Santa Cruz.

[ACE] Can you tell me about your background?


[KL] I’m from Brooklyn, New York. I’ve been with ACE for a year. I graduated with a degree in geology.

What motivated you to get into conservation?


The whole outdoor aspect of studying geology got me into it. I wanted to continue the fieldwork aspect and do more physical practical work.

How did you find out about ACE?


The Internet, and I’ve got some friends who had worked for ACE who recommended it.

Can you tell me about a highlight and a challenge you’ve had during your internship?
A highlight for me is all the chainsaw related work I’ve gotten to experience. We’ve been on a lot of cool projects involving felling hazard trees and I’ve really enjoyed that.

A challenge has been learning how to live a different lifestyle. It can be very busy and chaotic at times. But this can be positive, because when you go on project you’ve got all this time to get to know people on a very personal level, and it adds a really nice teamwork aspect.

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You began your term with ACE as a crewmember, but you’ve recently become an assistant crew leader. Can you tell me about the transition between the two positions?
Well, I want to be a part of ACE more seriously. Being an ACL is a stepping-stone to do that. The position is different from being a crewmember because you have more responsibilities including more office-based work and driving an ACE vehicle. The transition has been pretty easy for me though.

Do you feel that the staff at ACE has been supportive of your desire to achieve a more supervisory role?
Yeah, definitely. I use the phrase ‘mutual respect’ a lot to refer to the relationship between the staff and the crews. They are really communicative and supportive.

Do you have any plans for the future after ACE? 

I’ve been thinking about going to graduate school for forestry eventually.

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Do you think that this position has helped prepare you for the future?


Absolutely. It’s given me a lot of experience with a leadership role, working with other people, technical skills. It’s been all-encompassing.

What do you think sets ACE apart from other organizations?


I think there’s a lot more communication and freedom to choose to do what you want…If you apply yourself you can get a lot out of it.

Do you have any advice for people looking to get into conservation or join ACE?


Keep an open mind. You can get a lot of positive things from this job if you strive for it.

#IamACE | Rory Patrick McLaughlin

When we met up with Rory for this post he was working on the Meder Canyon Trails Project in the City of Santa Cruz.

[ACE]Can you tell me about your background?


[RPM] I’m from Wilmington, Delaware. I grew up there and have lived there my whole life until now. I went to school at the University of Delaware, and I studied psychology and Spanish.

What motivated you to get into conservation?


I took a few trips when I was younger out west. I worked at a camp in Colorado and I got acquainted with the outdoors. I’ve always really loved nature and I figured I should do something to help preserve it so that others can experience it as well.

How did you find ACE?
I found it through a very good friend of mine who is crew leading for ACE right now. I was taking some time off from school and he turned me on to the program.

Can you tell me about a highlight and a challenge you’ve had during your term?
ACE attracts a lot of different people. You’ve got people who are younger than you, who may have just graduated high school; some are from another country. So it can be difficult to work with so many different people sometimes.

A highlight has been being able to work outside every day. There are negatives and positives in ACE of course, but everything balances out.

What goals do you have for the future when you’re done working with ACE?


Well, ACE has a way of kind of sucking you in. I might extend my term. My next goal is to teach English in Chile.

Do you think this position has helped you prepare for the future?


Absolutely. If I decide to keep working in the field of conservation or with a government agency at some point, I’ve made so many contacts within the USFS and the BLM that would help me to pursue that. It’s also taught me to be flexible and easily adapt to new things.

What do you think sets ACE apart?
Well it’s very different from other jobs. Spending so much time with the same people, everything’s on the table. Working, cooking, eating, with these people all the time changes things a lot. You know everything about everyone. That can be tough sometimes, but I think it’s also positive. If there are any problems they’ll come to light pretty quickly, but I think in a healthy way. They can be dealt with quickly. I’ve worked doing manual labor before. I worked as a roofer for 5 years. ACE beats that for sure. The environment and the people you work with here are much better.

Do you have any advice you’d give to people who are thinking of joining ACE or thinking about getting involved in conservation?
If you’re not afraid of hard work, this is position is attainable for anyone. But you’ve got to be flexible and you’ve got to work hard.

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#IamACE | Stephany Ninette Gonzalez

Our latest installment of IamACE brings us back to our headquarters in Flagstaff, Arizona. When we caught up with her, new Corps member Stephany Ninette Gonzalez was working in one of the most magnificent parks, Grand Canyon, National Park.

[ACE]: Can you tell me about your background?


[SNG]:I’m from California. I went to school at the university of La Verne. I graduated this past January with a bachelor’s in biology. I have a concentration in pre-health, but towards the end of my studies I decided to focus more on the environment, because my senior thesis was about environmental work. Since I really didn’t take too many environmental classes during my studies, I decided when I graduated to just experience a lot of different environmental work. I’m 22, and I just started with ACE—this is my first hitch.

What motivated you to get into conservation?




I was looking for jobs and found this one through usajobs.org. It sounded really cool, it seemed like I’d be able to get opportunities in experiencing a wide variety of projects. That’s what I wanted, so I could figure out what path I want to take for my career.

Any goals for the future when you’re done with this position?




It depends on what type of work I fall in love with here. We’ll see!

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Do you think this position is helping you prepare for the future?




Yeah, definitely! Experience is a big thing in the workforce. So after ACE when I’m looking for a job, I can say, “look at all the projects I’ve worked on!” It’ll give me a foot in the door.

What do you think sets ACE apart from other organizations?



Other organizations that I applied for had a specific objective that you’d work on for a few months to a year, and that’s all you would learn. But with ACE, it gives you this big variety of things you can learn.

Do you have any advice for people looking to join ACE or get into conservation?


Have an open mind. You’re going to meet a lot of different people with a lot of different opinions. Be flexible.

#IamACE | Jennifer Rose Diamond

In this installment of #IamACE, we are proud to introduce Jennifer Rose Diamond of ACE California! At the time we caught up with Jennifer she was the Assistant Crew Leader on the Ventana Wilderness Alliance – Silver Peaks Wilderness Trails Project.

[ACE] Can you tell me about your background?

[JRD] I’m from Maryland. I went to the State University of New York. I started off undeclared but ended up majoring in anthropology, focusing more on biological anthropology.

What got you motivated to get into conservation?

Well I’ve always loved being outside. I’ve always done a lot of hiking with my family. They really ingrained that in me growing up—valuing nature and doing outdoor activities. One of my best friends from back home found ACE and we ended up joining together. We made a cross-country road trip out of it. We were signed up for 3 months, but then I found out about Americorps and decided to stay on longer.

Can you tell me about one highlight and one challenge that you’ve had during your term so far?

I loved the project I did over the summer. I worked for the USFS in the Sierra Nevada’s at Hilton Lake. It was a pretty long-term project. There were only six of us, and we were there for 4 months. We worked directly with this USFS ranger and it was really hands-on, tough rockwork, rerouting trails, crosscutting logs, it felt like real trail work. It was really cool to experience something that felt so professional.

A challenge has been not having a lot of alone time except for when you’re in your tent.

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Can you tell me about the transition from crewmember to assistant crew leader?

This is the first project I’ve been on where I’m an ACL. When I came here, from the beginning people would ask, “Do you want to stick with ACE?” I realized pretty quickly that it is really doable to move up from being a crewmember to more of a leader because there are so many opportunities when you’re a crewmember to take on more responsibility. The first crew leader I ever had told me “ACE is what you make of it.” If you want to use it as a tool to begin your career, or if you want to use ACE as a way to experience leadership roles, it can definitely be that kind of a job for you. That’s what I decided I wanted to take on. Because now that I’ve had the experience as a crewmember and I’ve had the chance to become more professional and learn a lot of new things, I want to pass that on.

Do you have any plans for the future when you’re done with ACE?

I would really like to move up to become an official crew leader within ACE. I think I’d like that challenge. I think it’d be a great way to make some good connections. I’ve definitely thought about going to work with NPS or USFS. I’m not sure yet if I want to do federal or work for another nonprofit. But I do want to stick with conservation or just general outdoors type of work.

Do you think that ACE has helped you prepare for the future?

I do! You can enjoy this program regardless of your background. Like I said earlier, it’s what you make of it. If you come here and you want to make connections and start building you career, you can. You just have to put yourself out there.

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What sets ACE apart from other organizations?

It’s not just a job; it’s a whole lifestyle. It’s not a 9 to 5. But I really like the change. And I feel like this is the time in my life to really experience this kind of thing. I’m pretty flexible and I don’t have a lot tying me down anywhere and I like the opportunity to travel around California and see all these cool places and camp. It’s really awesome.

Do you have any advice for someone thinking about joining ACE or considering getting into conservation?

I’d say do it! If anything, just try it out as a 3-month volunteer term and go from there. It’s a great way to get the experience and get out in the field.

#IamACE | Cristobal Castaneda

Can you tell me about your background?

I was born in Mexico. I lived there until I was 9 years old. At that point my family moved to the United States and we’ve been living here in Martinez California ever since. I’m 23 years old and I’m currently attending Diablo Valley Community College in a nearby city.

In my high school they had a program called A New Leaf—A sustainable living collaborative. It’s kind of a combination of typical high school classes and also hands-on experiential learning. That program is actually what got me interested in outdoor fields and careers, and it’s what got me my internship with the National Park Service.

What got you interested in conservation initially?

There’s always been something inside of me that’s been drawn to the outdoors. I think that moving from Mexico to Martinez, CA plays a big part as well. In Mexico, I was only familiar with the urban environment: streets and stone houses, not much scenery. So coming here and being surrounded by undeveloped open hills and spaces is what got me interested in the outdoors. It made me think, “Wow! The world is so much different than what I’m used to!” Now I love going on bike rides to the marina downtown, going to parks, learning about new plants, birds, and insects, those sorts of things.

Can you tell me about a highlight and a challenge you’ve had during your internship?

The challenge has been getting used to working with a federal agency. Also, this is one of the first jobs I’ve had—before this I had just worked for family, or done side jobs here and there but I had never really had an official job. So getting used to all the aspects of a job like time management, being organized with all the paperwork, that’s been difficult.

As part of the work I do for this internship I get to work with high school students who are trying to figure out what they want to do in life. For me undoubtedly the biggest highlight is when I get to see people having fun in our National Parks and being outside and enjoying themselves. To be able to give that experience to other young people is by far one of the best things I’m able to do. I feel very lucky to be able to be a mentor.

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What other tasks are part of your internship?

A few examples are the photo point monitoring project and the phenology project. For the photo point monitoring project, we take specific snapshots of a landscape and track how it changes over time. We photograph an area and record whether there is erosion or if invasive plants are growing.

The phenology project involves the study of living organisms and how they interact with the changing seasons. Birds migrating and plants blooming are some examples. We are studying the life cycle of different organisms. There is a California Phenlogy Project that monitors the native California plants and environmental changes. We use data sheets and smartphone apps to record any changes in the life cycles of the plant. For example: whether it has new flowers, leaves, or fruit. We observe the plant as it grows. All of our research goes to the database online, which is analyzed by scientists at the University of Santa Barbara. That data is passed on to other scientists and they publish newsletters and articles about what we’re finding. The most consistent discovery is that spring is coming 2 or 3 weeks earlier now. It’s a very hands-on project.

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Do you have any goals for the future when you’re done with this internship?

Absolutely! I want to work on as many public lands as possible. I’d love to work at Point Reyes or Golden Gate, Pinnacles or Yosemite. I think Yosemite would be my dream job. I’d like to become an NPS ranger. I want to be involved in the natural resource conservation. Aside from teaching young people my passion is protecting the environment and protecting these resources for the benefit of everyone.

Do you think this position has helped you prepare for those goals?

Yes, without a doubt. My supervisor, who is an NPS ranger, has given me so many opportunities to explore different parks and to become more familiar with the structure of the National Park Service. He’s given me the opportunity to be out in the field and to try all these new things even if I don’t yet have the background in it. He’s been kind enough to allow me to learn from him and practice these skills and really start to get my foot in the door by allowing me to experience what it’s actually like to work in this field. Everything I’ve done in this job so far has contributed to my personal development. I’ve improved in so many ways thanks to this internship.

What do you think sets ACE apart from other organizations?

The staff is really flexible, understanding, and supportive. Even though their headquarters are in Utah, they still do everything they can to make sure my immediate problems are addressed.

Do you have any advice you’d give to someone who’s interested in EPIC or looking to get into conservation?

I’d say don’t be hesitant to try new things. I had never worked in the field of conservation or with a federal agency, but I took the opportunity to try it. If you’re thinking about ACE or other programs like this, don’t feel like you necessarily have to have the experience or the degrees, the most important thing is your commitment to the program, and your willingness to learn and apply yourself.

#IamACE | Mark Gestwicki

In our 3rd installment of #IamACE we are excited to feature one of our California-based Assistant Crew Leaders, Mark Gestwicki. Mark’s journey within ACE is common: a transition from Corpsmember into an Assistant Crew Leader. Mark’s work ethic and leadership skills are a true asset to our California crew program, and we are happy to showcase his story here.

[ACE] What is your background?
[MG] I grew up in Western New York. I went to the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry where I earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Conservation Biology. After graduation, I served for 2 years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi, Africa where it was my responsibility to introduce sustainable farming practices to a rural village. My goal was to implement community-based projects that would ultimately lead to a permanent increase in standard of living.

What motivated or inspired you to be in conservation?
My Field Biology teacher in High School was very influential and inspired me to pursue a career in environmental conservation. Together we formed the Dunkirk Outdoor Adventure Group which takes students out rafting, backpacking, and caving. He is still a good friend and I visit him whenever I’m back in New York.

How did you discover ACE?
I found ACE on a conservation job board.

What was your favorite aspect of being an ACE Corpsmember?
I enjoyed having the opportunity to spend time in some of the most beautiful parts of California. Not many jobs other than ACE offer the opportunity to spend a month in the backcountry of Sequoia National Park.

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How did you transition into an Assistant Crew Leader?
It seemed like the logical next step after my initial 6-month AmeriCorps term. I wanted to take on more responsibilities at work.

What has been your favorite project and why?
My favorite hitch was probably an invasive removal project in Sequoia National Park. We were about 20 miles in the backcountry for a month. I would spend hours’ trout fishing after work and on the weekends. We hardly saw anyone out there.

What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced at ACE?
I think that ACE is socially challenging. There are constantly new faces and it can be exhausting meeting new people all of the time.

What are your future goals?
I want to expand my knowledge and skills related to international development, sustainable agriculture, and natural resource management. I’m applying to graduate schools now and looking at creative ways to use my AmeriCorps Education Award. Ultimately, I want to manage conservation projects with an international NGO or nonprofit.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
It is my intention to continue pursuing a career in conservation.

Do you think this position has helped prepare you for your future career?
Yes! It’s been interesting to be a part of the “on the ground” conservation projects. I’ve been able to work closely with the major governmental land management organizations and witness which projects are given priority and how they are implemented. I’ve also gained valuable skills in environmental restoration, leadership, and problem solving.

What advice can you offer to future corps members who are looking to get into the conservation field?
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget why you want to protect natural areas in the first place. Take some time to go for a hike, sit by a stream, or climb a tree.

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#IamACE | Daniel Reyes

In the second installment of our series #IamACE, we’d like to introduce you to ACE corps member Daniel Reyes. Daniel is a crew corps member based out of our Flagstaff, Arizona branch. We caught up with Daniel, hard at work at our Yarnell project in southern Arizona.

[ACE] Can you tell me about your background? Where did you grow up?

[DR] I grew up in Central Valley California, and I went to school at Humboldt University in Northern California. I studied environmental management and protection with an emphasis in natural resources planning. I just graduated in December.

What motivated you to get into conservation?

There’s a local preserve by a land trust near my house and the use of land always fascinated me. I didn’t go out into nature much as a kid–my family didn’t do much hiking or camping or anything. But when I got the chance to get out and be exposed to it, I realized I wanted to work in nature.

How did you find ACE?

In the summer of 2014 I was wondering what to do between semesters of college. I looked around online and found a 450 hour position with ACE. It coincided perfectly with my summer break. I liked it so much that I wanted to come back!

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Can you tell me about one highlight and one challenge of your time with ACE?

My highlight would be the people. We all come from so many different backgrounds but we all have the same mindset of working hard in the field of conservation. A challenge from my last term with ACE was the heat–working in extreme temperatures in the Grand Canyon. This project we’re on right now in Yarnell is more mentally challenging. We have to use the materials that are around us to build staircases for the trail. It requires a lot of planning.

What do you think sets ACE apart from other organizations?

I think the difference I notice working for ACE is the people it attracts. The corps members in ACE seem a lot more prepared, motivated, and willing to do this type of work.

Tell me about your goals for the future when you’re done with ACE.

I’d like to work for the city or the county. I love hard manual labor and getting outside. I’m not totally sure what I’d like to do, but I think ACE has been helpful in preparing me for my future. ACE provides you with experience in the field, helps you form an applicable skill set, and you have to work together with many other people which helps you develop your teamwork skills.

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#IamACE | Stephanie Emery

Today we launch a new blog series titled “I am ACE” (#IamACE), which aims to highlight the individual stories of ACE’s corps members and interns.

Our corps members and interns come from culturally diverse backgrounds across the United States and each has a unique story to tell. Common to all is the passion for our natural environment, and a desire to develop into a future land steward.

In the first of our #IamACE series we introduce you to Stephanie Emery, and ACE EPIC intern currently serving with the Bureau of Land Management in Ironwood Forest National Monument in southern Arizona.
We are excited to share Stephanie’s story.

Stephanie Emery

[ACE] What is your background? Where are you from?
[SE] I am 22 years old. I’m born and raised in Seattle, Washington. I went to the University of Washington there. I just graduated last winter and studied environmental science, and focused on conservation.

What motivated you to be in conservation?
I am Native American–from Alaska. I grew up learning to be in tune with the land and with nature, and that motivated me to want to conserve our landscape. Growing up I really saw how people have been negatively impacting nature, and I really want to make a positive impact and try to restore our lands.

How did you find ACE?
I did an internship with AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society) who shares a similar mission with ACE. I met Hannah Wendel (ACE/EPIC internship Program Manager and Recruitment Specialist) through that position and she informed me about this internship, so I applied.

Can you tell me about the responsibilities you have for your internship?
We do a lot of trash pickup along the border. We monitor wildlife using cameras, and coordinate volunteers for different events. We install wash barriers to prevent people from driving off-road and causing erosion, install informative and regulatory signs, and also repair fences on the monument.

Stephanie Emery

Stephanie and fellow intern Alex Hreha check up on a barrel cactus that was relocated off of the path of an access road. The cactus was replanted safely off the road site and has been growing steadily and healthily since its relocation

What has been one highlight and one challenge of your internship?
The highlight has been working outdoors. We see a lot of wildlife and Native American artifacts. We’ve seen lots of bighorn sheep, some foxes, lots of animals. I love being out here.
The volunteer coordinating can be challenging. We are facilitators in that setting, so we take on a lot of responsibilities. The volunteers often come in with their own ideas, so we have to work with them. They often ask us why we’re doing a project, so we have to reassess our reasoning and back it up. This can be a positive experience though, because if we were just given an assignment we may not even think about the reasoning behind it, whereas when we coordinate the volunteer events we really have to know what we’re doing and why.

What are your plans after this position? Goals for the future?
I took the GRE and I’m planning on going to graduate school for either Rangeland Ecology or Fire Ecology. Eventually I hope to end up with a full time position with the BLM, who I currently intern for. That’s one of the major organizations that I’ve aligned myself with.

So do you think this internship has helped you to prepare for that career?
Definitely, yeah. This internship has given me the long term experience that I need for my resume, compared to some of the other internships which I’ve done that have been much shorter. This internship is 9 months long. One of the benefits of this work is that it has given me close to a year of experience that I need for my resume to prove that I’m committed.

What do you feel sets ACE apart from other organizations?
ACE’s staff seems more closely connected and more helpful than what I’ve experience with other internships. During some internships I never even met any of the staff and no one contacted me throughout the time I was working. ACE’s staff is readily available. The internship durations are better, and they have more cooperation with different organizations like NPS and BLM, which is great for career moves.

So do you think it’s helped you professionally?
Yes it has, in that I’ve gained a lot of good connections within the BLM, who I want to get a career with them in the future. It’s also helped me with graduate school, because it brought me from Phoenix to Tucson and helped introduce me to people from the University of Arizona where I can hopefully study someday.

Any advice you’d give to someone considering a career in conservation?
ACE is a good starting point. I think I’d advise people to start by volunteering (I did a lot of volunteering which I felt helped me get in with ACE) then short internships, build up to longer term internships, and that can help you build the framework for a career in conservation.

Stephanie Emery

Stephanie and Ryan Scot Gillespie install a sign to notify the public to refrain from entering a certain area in order to protect the bighorn sheep who are entering their lambing season.

We're busy conserving the environment