We took a trip down to Saguaro National Park to visit Epic Intern Paige Lambert who has been with ACE since June of last year. Paige let us tag along for a border impact survey where she shared her ACE experience with us. Thanks Paige!
Can you tell me a little bit about your background? (Where are you from? What did you study? What got you interested in ACE?)
I am originally from Houston, Texas, and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science. My degree required extensive fieldwork experience, which enabled and inspired me to find a job working as a biological science technician after graduation. The dream was to work for the National Park Service, as visiting and exploring different National Parks is one of my favorite hobbies. During my job search, I found that ACE offered internships with NPS for recent graduates like me. I applied for a job with the resource management division at Saguaro National Park, and when they offered me the position, I didn’t need much convincing to accept it.
How did you find about ACE and can you tell me about your transition from being in college to being an EPIC intern?
I found ACE simply by Googling conservation jobs. Three weeks after I graduated from school, I packed up my car and drove across the southwest to move to my new home in Tucson. I remember being worried about if I would succeed at my new job, and if college had truly prepared me for the “real world”. My supervisors and crew leads ended up being great mentors to help me navigate through this transitional time; they expected me to put forth my best effort, but were patient and understanding while I figured things out. Over time, I built my confidence and I gained independence and initiative.
What is a typical day like for you?
There truly is no typical day at my job. The only consistent aspect of my time with ACE has been starting every morning with a gorgeous sunrise as I lace up my boots for a day in the field. My days have varied anywhere from scorching hot afternoons mapping invasive grass species, to freezing mornings searching for tracks and spotting deer with binoculars, to meeting with park visitors and volunteers to educate them about resource management. The variety keeps me on my toes so that I am always challenged to do something new and never grow complacent.
What has been a highlight for you?
A valuable highlight in this internship has been connecting with like-minded people who share similar goals and values that I hold. The people that I work with have also chosen to make a commitment to preserving and protecting our country’s resources, and working with them every day brings a new sense of hope and appreciation to the cause. A spirit of camaraderie in the field is oftentimes what makes the difference between a positive, constructive field day and a frustrated, aggravated field day.
What has been the most challenging part of being an EPIC intern?
To be completely honest, this lifestyle is not cozy and not for everyone. It takes mental grit, physical endurance, and a creatively frugal mindset to make it work. In the most challenging moments, it can be hard to remember the importance of the work that you are doing, and the impact that you are making. It is crucial to be able to keep the long-term goal in mind, and reflect on what truly matters at the end of the day.
If you could give someone going into your position some words of advice what would you say?
Strive for excellence and self-improvement every day, even in small matters. As an ACE intern, you will be exposed to new territory that can seem intimidating, but face it head on with confidence and you will take away a brand new skill set. You have an opportunity to gain mentors who are leaders and trail blazers in their field, so don’t let a chance to learn from them pass you by. Most importantly, always be a team player- encourage your teammates, and only compete against yourself. Everyone knows something that you don’t know, so be open to learning from anyone you meet.
Where do you see this position taking you in the future?
This position has given me a fresh conviction that I am able to contribute valuable and meaningful work towards a worthy cause. It has reaffirmed my mission to build a career in environmental protection and conservation, and has provided me with a solid foundation to work from. My path in this mission is still undefined: I may continue to pursue resource management, I might go to school for environmental law, or I may enter the non-profit sector. Whatever path I take, I know that my time with ACE has served as my conservation trail-head.