Alumni Name: Kayleen Larose
Dates Served: October 2019 – May 2020 & August 2020 – February 2021
What roles was Kayleen in: Two different EPIC programs with USFWS. Trail Inventory Project Team Member & Biology Technician at Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR
Location: Traveling across the U.S. then based out of Eagle Lake, Texas
Q: What were you doing before ACE?
A: I graduated from Plymouth State University in May of 2019 with an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science. Two days after graduation, I packed up my stuff, and traveled from New Hampshire to St Louis, Missouri to start an internship doing sedimentary analysis of the Mississippi River. This was a two month research project, and once I finished I drove to Tennessee to start an apprenticeship at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area as an Environmental Educator. I ended up leaving early because I was offered a position traveling the country hiking and mapping trails at National Wildlife Refuges with ACE and I could not pass this adventure of a lifetime up!
Q: How did you hear about ACE?
A: I heard about ACE when I was first starting my job search when I was in college. I use Texas A&M job board heavily when applying to research and conservation based internships and jobs. I saw different ACE positions posted here and went to apply on ACE’s website. I found out so much more about ACE with just a few clicks, the EPIC and crew programs, and I decided that EPIC was right up my alley, the rest is history!
Q: Walk me through your time at ACE – What was your favorite aspect of being an ACE EPIC Intern?
A: In my first position with ACE’s EPIC program, I was part of a Trail Inventory Team at National Wildlife Refuges across America. I started in Maine with my coworker and crew lead, and we made our way all the way down the east coast to Delaware within the first few months. Then we made our way across the country, passing through Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and ending our journey in sunny southern California. We met countless USFWS employees along the way, anywhere from refuge managers and wildlife biologists to interns just like me who also worked for ACE. We hiked and mapped hundreds of miles of trails, from mountainous terrain, coastal dunes, swamp lands, and even paved ADA accessible paths.
We stayed in many different bunk houses and hotels, encountered various wildlife, and learned a lot about working for Fish and Wildlife. This was such an exhilarating position, that was sometimes challenging, but overall very rewarding, I was able to see much of the country in just under 9 months.
My second position with ACE was at Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge, where I worked, hands on, with the endangered Attwater Prairie Chicken as a Biology Technician. The main role I played was to track these birds with radio telemetry out of a truck everyday so that we could monitor locations of each bird. This was done so that when nesting season came, we could protect the nests and eggs until they hatched. I also assisted in putting birds into acclimation pens once they were brought to the refuge from captive breeding facilities like the Houston Zoo and Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. We would release them into the prairie after 2 weeks and hope that they would thrive in the wild. I also helped conduct night captures, to re-radio birds and radio new chicks, this was always really cool! This position showed me that I want to work with wildlife, especially birds. Both experiences were really amazing.
Q: What was it like living in your term Location? Any favorite activities? Hikes? What did you do on your off days?
A: When working on the Trail Inventory Team, we traveled everywhere, so there really was no one place we stayed at, but that was the beauty of it. Every weekend, we could do something or see something new. From farmers markets and fishing on local ponds, to trips to New York City, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Portland to hikes in the Redwoods in California, Dead Mountain Wilderness in Arizona, and swims in Lake Havasu City, adventure was never far. On my days off, usually I would look up the closest hiking spot, a beautiful place to sit and relax, or a local coffee shop after a long week or hiking. Luckily my coworker and I became best friends, we could spend all week hiking together and still go out on the weekends and have a great time, she made this position even better.
When I was living in Texas for my second term with ACE, I lived in a very small town surrounded by lots of agriculture and cattle land. Even though adventure and hiking was a bit harder to come by than before, I still managed to find it whenever I pleased. My boyfriend lived just under an hour away from my term location at the time and luckily he knew the area better than I did. We would explore the cities and surrounding areas of Houston, Austin, and San Antonio as well as go camping at various state parks throughout the state. My favorite was Enchanted Rock State Park, it was magnificent and filled with miles of trails. We found a beautiful open ranch to camp at and had a view of the glowing red sunset and sunrise on top of a small hill. At this position, my job was less intense on hiking and so just about every weekend, I took off to find trails near and far, sometimes driving 4 hours one way for a beautiful hike.
Q: In what ways did ACE shape your life personally and professionally?
A: ACE got me out of my comfort zone from living in one place with the same roof over my head and the same people around me, to traveling almost every day, meeting new people and staying in all kinds of bunk houses. I learned how to better communicate with people, make friends and professional connections and put myself out there. This position showed me how resilient I could be, as there was little stability in my life and I was able to persevere and stick with it. I’m so thankful I had this amazing experience as I would have never had it without ACE and I will never forget it. I now have a life-long friend, Cat, who was there for me for our whole term and still is to this day, from strangers, to best friends, this is one example of what no time away from each other can do to two people.
From working at Attwater NWR, I have also made some amazing connections with FWS staff and ACE coworkers. Through this position I learned that I want to work in wildlife conservation and I was able to learn all about it with some of the most knowledgeable biologists I’ve ever met. I was able to handle and capture wild Attwater Prairie Chickens, which will help me attain a job working in this field in the future. My career path has opened up much more since joining ACE and gaining valuable experience.
Q: How long have you been an ACE Alumni? Where are you now?
A: I have been an ACE Alumni for about 4 months now. Since my term ended in Texas, I was offered a temporary seasonal position as an Avian Technician working in Arizona, one of my favorite and in my opinion, one of the most diverse states. From low desert, shrubland, red rock, and high coniferous montane forest, this position has had me working in them all. I worked this position for 3 months, surveying for endangered Pinyon Jays all across Northern Arizona, particularly in Pinyon-Juniper forest habitat. Some of the most exciting animals I have seen have been; pronghorn, bison, elk, coyote, fox, ringtail, Vermilion Flycatchers, Zone-Tailed Hawks and rattlesnakes. I spent the majority of my time at this position tent camping in remote, wilderness areas with very little cell service. We worked on the Kaibab Plateau, North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Vermillion Cliffs National Monument as well as areas around Flagstaff and Kingman, AZ. Currently I am located outside of Phoenix on the hunt for my next position to further my career in conservation and wildlife.
Q: What are some of your favorite extracurricular activities?
A: My absolute favorite thing to do in my down time is to go hiking. I am always looking for the next beautiful site, rugged trail, and strenuous mountain to climb. I have been hiking on my own ever since I was young. I find serenity and peace in being outside on my own, being able to watch the birds and listen to the sounds of nature. I have also more recently gotten extremely into birding. Everywhere I go, I bring my binoculars, even if I am just driving through the city, you never know what bird you’ll see by the canals stopping by for a drink. Last weekend, my boyfriend and I took a trip to Lynx Lake in Prescott, AZ and were lucky enough to see a breeding pair of bald eagles perching and flying over the lake… go figure it was one of the rare times I forgot my binos at home! I also love to spend time with my dog, Mister, a German/Australian Shepherd mix that we found as a stray in Texas and took him in as our own. We go on walks and hikes together and trips to the community dog parks in our apartment complex. I also love to read and write and take time for self care through meditation, yoga, and working out at the gym.
Q: What excites you most about becoming an ACE Alumni Ambassador?
A: I am excited to be an ACE Alumni Ambassador because I want to spread the word of how great working for ACE is and how far I have gone and how much I have learned about myself, personally and professionally through these experiences. I want to help young people who are looking for their career path to figure out what program is right for them depending on their goals, ideal locations and lifestyle, there really is so much to choose from! I really think that ACE should be an organization that is well known, starting in highschool to get youth excited about conservation and the environment and give them a place to start. I know how hard it is when just starting out, I applied to dozens of jobs and internships after graduating and only one accepted me. If only I knew about ACE at the time! I think ACE is a great place to figure out what you want to do and to start a journey of a lifetime into helping to preserve natural systems and wildlife.
Q: If a prospective ACE member were to ask you what the benefits of joining ACE are, what would you say?
A: I would tell them, there are so many benefits! First and foremost, you’re putting yourself out there and that is the first step into making a lifelong career and connections. You will meet so many great people through ACE, not only the staff that work so hard to support ACE interns and emerging professionals in conservation, but also the staff you will work with from a multitude of different agencies such as U.S Fish and Wildlife, U.S Forest Service, U.S Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management. You will also have the opportunity to meet fellow ACE interns and make some great lasting friendships with people that are passionate about the same things that you are. Really, connections to me were some of the most important things I have gained from ACE, two of my three current references are from working with ACE. Working for ACE is also rewarding because the work you are doing actually contributes to conservation efforts and you can see the work in action. For example if you’re working on a crew, you will see the direct difference you and your team have made in trail construction, invasive plant removal, or replanting native species. This work will continue to flourish into the future and trails that are built or maintained by crews will be enjoyed for generations. This makes a huge difference! If working for EPIC, you will typically work with a government agency and you will see how your work at the refuge, park, forest, etc contributes directly to the functioning and enhancement of the land, wildlife, and public enjoyment. ACE is a great opportunity to get your foot in the door of conservation and will really help you figure out what is and isn’t right for you!