A day in my job at Neal Smith NWR

By Ayden Reyes

The seasonal Park Ranger and me at our refuges World Migratory Bird Day Event

     A day at my job as a Visitor Services Intern at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge is, in one word: fulfilling. Whether it may be interpreting for a field trip of elementary school students, working with volunteers on various projects around the refuge, or helping the biology crew with fieldwork, I leave work each day looking forward to the next. 

     Despite being primarily an office based job, my supervisor excels at encouraging me to get as many different experiences at the refuge as possible. I’ve found myself supporting biology projects here at the refuge by cleaning and organizing prairie seeds, helping make a seed mix for planting on the refuge, and girdling trees, among other tasks. It gives a reprieve from staring at a screen, and I enjoy helping the biology crew whenever I can.

Mixing a bulk seed mix to be planted on newly acquired farmland that will be transformed into tallgrass prairie.

     This has been my first experience working with children in a professional setting, and it’s a blast. If there’s one thing that I learned, it’s that children are dynamic, observant, and much smarter than they’re given credit for. Seeing their eyes light up when they learn something fascinating about the prairie brings a smile to my face, and seeing many hands raised when we inevitably ask “Who wants to be a Park Ranger when you grow up?” makes any fatigue from a long day of work well worth it. 

     Additionally, this position has provided me with my first professional public-facing job within federal land management agencies. Some days, the seasonal Park Ranger and I run a table exhibit at different community events, such as holiday events or farmers markets. I will also often staff our visitor center desk. One great conversation with a visitor or volunteer can make my day, and I find myself looking forward to interacting with the public, which reassures me in my career choice.

As a Visitor Services Intern, I wear many hats, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tabling at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens’ Earth Day event, where we spoke with 647 people about the work we do at the refuge, and how they can help pollinators at home.
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