Gianna Varela at Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Gianna Varela – Fish & Feathers Intern Introduction

Say hello To Gianna

Gianna Varela at graduation, University of Rhode Island, 2023

Hi there! My name is Gianna Varela, and I am from Cumberland, Rhode Island. 

I recently graduated summa cum laude from the University of Rhode Island with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Affairs (formally, Coastal and Marine Policy and Management) and minors in Anthropology, Oceanography, and Spanish Language. I am frequently referred to as a “jack of all trades” (and sometimes “a master of none”) by those close to me, but rather than internalize that title as a compliment or insult, I simply consider it a byproduct of my tendency to think big-picture about the world in which we live. This isn’t to say that I am incapable of seeing the forest for the trees, but throughout my academic career, I found myself continuously bewitched by the grand intersections of environmental science, economics, history, and culture on the waterfront. I completed courses in everything from marine pollution policy to underwater historical archaeology, and my interest in all things coastal anthropology manifested as a professional pursuit of answering some of the present-day’s biggest questions: How do we preserve cultural heritage in the face of anthropogenic climate change? How might we integrate the traditional ecological knowledge of diverse communities around the globe with contemporary environmental management strategies? How can we work with indigenous populations to minimize the cultural infringement caused by coastal development and industrialization? These questions all led me to here, Environment for the Americas!

What The Summer Has IN Store For Me

This summer, I will be working at Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Since this park was only founded in 2014 and had its boundaries finalized in 2021, a lot of its environmental programs are still in their infancy, so I will really have my work cut out for me as an intern! My primary job at Blackstone River Valley NHP will be to expand on existing fishing programs at the park, as well as institute a series of birding programs and events for the first time ever! A significant percentage of the population of the Blackstone River Valley identifies as Hispanic/Latino (as do I), so I will be working closely with Caroline Gracia, another EFTA intern under the Latino Heritage Internship Program (LHIP), to increase community engagement with these new programs, and ensure that opportunities in natural resource education and recreation are accessible to diverse and underserved communities. 

Gianna Varela headshot in Fish and Feathers uniform

Apart from my primary duties as a Fish and Feathers intern, I will also have the opportunity to collaborate with the lovely interpretive rangers at the Blackstone River Valley NHP to develop educational programming surrounding pollinators, astronomy, the social/environmental history of the park, among many other things; assist Scientists in Parks (SIP) intern, Sarah Heavren, in collecting LiDAR data which will be used to create projections and adaptation strategies for climate change-induced river flooding; and participate in indigenous peoples trainings/round-table discussions about how local tribes would like the park to educate others about their culture and history on the river.

What I Hope to Gain

Gianna Varela at a birding pop-up event at the Kelly House in Lincoln, RI

I am so fortunate and excited to be wearing many hats and tackling various endeavors at Blackstone River Valley NHP this summer, all of which will be valuable contributors to my personal and professional growth. 

I think my work as an intern will be really gratifying in the sense that I will have the opportunity to give back to my home community by teaching people about the local environment and how to be a good steward — information that I wish was more accessible to me when I was growing up. 

This internship will also. allow me determine if a career in environmental education is right for me. I hope to attend graduate school some day, once I have a clearer vision of what I’d like to pursue professionally. I have a pretty broad bachelor’s degree and many many interests, so my work this summer will be instrumental in narrowing down what I’m most passionate about and what career will put my strongest skills into action.

All in all, I am really grateful to Environment for the Americas and the National Park Service for the wonderful gift that this internship will be, and I am thrilled to share with you all what I’ll be getting up to this summer, so stay tuned, and please cheer me and my fellow Fish and Feathers interns on!

Play Video about Gianna Varela Introductory Vlog
Watch my introductory vlog here!
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