We are thrilled to announce our 2022 Cohort of the Diversity in Conservation Internship Program!
The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin’s Diversity in Conservation Internship Program provides meaningful, paid experiences for undergraduates interested in careers in natural resource conservation. The goals of this cohort-based program are to introduce students to the field of conservation and its career pathways, and to help strengthen the knowledge and skills of program participants to meet the need for diverse professionals in Wisconsin’s conservation field.
This year we hosted seven interns, who were paired with Wisconsin conservation organizations for internship experiences and also received weekly programming and field trips to connect them to Wisconsin’s natural resources and future career opportunities in conservation. Learn more about each of this year’s interns below!
Soumika Gaddameedi is a senior at UW-Madison double majoring in Zoology and Environmental Studies with a certificate in Sustainability. She’s been involved in and is the upcoming president of the Wisconsin Society for Conservation Biology student chapter. She’s passionate about climate justice and wildlife conservation and also enjoys hiking, reading, and painting in her free time. She loves all animals, but definitely misses her dog Ace back home in New Berlin!
Through the Diversity in Conservation Internship Program, Soumi worked with the Wisconsin DNR Wildlife Management team. During her internship she assisted with department outreach and communications and field work.
“My mentors were very willing to allow me to explore different parts of the DNR to discover what I like and dislike, and I got the opportunity to shadow and experience many different types of fieldwork. This was very valuable to me as someone who’s never done any
conservation work in the field before. I learned hands-on land management and wildlife survey techniques. I also learned a lot about photographing nature and how to effectively communicate science in a way that the public can understand and appreciate.”
We’re thrilled that Soumi will be joining NRF for a development and outreach internship for fall 2022!
Mira Johnson is a junior at Lawrence University majoring in Biology with a minor in Studio Art. She is from Minnesota and enjoys painting, hiking, going to museums, spending time with family, and having picnics with friends. She recently participated in the Lawrence University Marine Program to gain field experience and to design and carry out her own research project on reef cleaning stations. She hopes her future career to be centered around the conservation of marine or wildlife systems.
For her internship, Mira worked with the Wisconsin DNR’s Office of Applied Science, working most closely with the Snapshot Wisconsin team. In addition to banding mallards and searching for elk calves, Mira designed new items for the Snapshot Wisconsin Bonfire store.
“One of my favorite things I did this summer was making designs for our Snapshot Wisconsin merchandise site,” said Mira. “I had to consider the requirements set by the merchandise manufacture, as well as consider what artistic style, colors, and products would be most appealing to our demographic, while also illustrating concepts that convey what Snapshot Wisconsin is.”
We’re excited to report that Mira will be joining NRF as a communications intern for fall 2022!
Samantha E. Klepfer is a sophomore at UW-Madison majoring in Environmental Science with certificates in Digital Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies. Sam is very passionate about writing and the environment and is potentially interested in environmental law. Sam was also in an entomology-related first-year interest group this past year, which sparked an interest in the field. Sam is from the Twin Cities and she loves musicals, ice cream and books. She also enjoys hammocking and taking pictures of pretty trees and she’s currently honing her skills in catching goldfish crackers in her mouth, alongside her experience with conservation.
Sam worked with Pheasants Forever – during her internship, she monitored 19 easements for compliance and worked on an ongoing project called Wisconsin Women of Pheasants Forever, where she featured 12 different women a variety of content.
Sam learned from the experience, “While I do want to do something that involves field work, I don’t want to spend every day in the field. My ideal job will allow me to incorporate my communications interest and background.”
Catherine Nguyen is a recent 2022 graduate from UW-Madison with a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and Environmental Studies. Most recently, she accomplished a tropical conservation study abroad semester in Ecuador. She now plans to explore new life experiences in field research and cultural awareness before obtaining a master’s degree in Wildlife Ecology. Her career aspirations involve further research in herpetology and ichthyology to assist environmental conservation efforts. She revels in exploring the parts of the world that not everyone typically gets to see and aims to promote environmental awareness to encourage the preservation of our natural environment. Her hometown is Greendale, WI and she enjoys scuba diving, swimming, ice skating, reading, video games with friends, and movies.
Catherine worked with the Wisconsin DNR Fisheries Management team for her internship, spending most of her time assisting with trout stream surveys and also helping stock northern pike, band geese, and other fisheries tasks.
“I am really grateful that I had this opportunity, especially as someone who had limited knowledge about freshwater fish or the fishing community in Wisconsin,” said Catherine. “I learned so much about freshwater fish that I never knew about before. I gained experience in electrofishing and learned how to identify so many species. I love fieldwork and plan to pursue a wildlife career in research or management. While I’ve had many research experiences before, I never really did anything with management of natural resources for the public.”
Kayla Okla is a senior at the UW-Madison pursuing a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and a second major in Environmental Studies. She is from the small town of Hartford, Wisconsin. Kayla was previously an undergraduate research assistant for a Chemical Ecology Lab at UW-Madison and is currently involved with the environmental education program at Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy in Middleton, Wisconsin. She hopes to pursue a career in environmental education and possibly become an interpretive ranger for the National Park Service someday. She is also the newly elected Vice President of the UW-Madison Chapter of The Wildlife Society. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, birding, kayaking, and loves to visit the Rocky Mountains!
Kayla worked with Wisconsin DNR Parks & Recreation, spending most of her time at Lake Kegonsa State Park maintaining the park, checking the beach’s water quality, and leading birding hikes.
“Since I am interested in environmental education and interpretive programs, I decided to put together a couple guided birding hikes in the park on our White Oak Nature Trail. For my first hike I only had two people show up, which was a little discouraging, but it was still very fun and they said they enjoyed it. Then for the second hike I had 13 people attend of all different ages! Some had gone birding before and some hadn’t, but overall that hike went very well as we all worked together to find some pretty cool birds.
I am so thankful to have been a part of this amazing program, to have the amazing connections we have formed, the new experiences, and most of all, new friends.”
Lea Ratanawong is a sophomore at UW-Madison who is currently undecided, but is leaning towards a double major in Zoology and Communication Arts. Last semester, she was involved in UW-Madison’s Filipinx American Student Organization (FASO) as an executive board intern. She currently works in her hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin as an Emergency Medical Technician. In her free time, she loves listening to music, playing video games/tennis/lacrosse, and stargazing!
For her internship, Lea worked with the International Crane Foundation and completed monitoring, capturing and banding birds, collecting seeds for prairie planting, and managing invasive species.
“One of my favorite things was capturing and banding cranes! I really loved being up close and personal with the cranes. I also got to engrave the bands that we put on during captures, so it’s kind of cool to be able to make something that’ll be on an actual crane’s legs someday.
I really can’t express how happy I am that I applied for this internship. It kept me productive and busy for a summer I was going to spend working at home, opened up new doors, answered a lot of questions I had, cleared up some self-doubt I was experiencing throughout my freshman year. I learned things about myself: the way I do tasks, the way I work in the morning compared to the afternoon, how I work in a team setting. These translate into how I function academically as well, so that’s been really helpful to know.”
Rahul Sabnis grew up and attended high school in Milwaukee and is now a sophomore at Lawrence University, where he is studying to major in Biology. He has always had an interest in land and wildlife conservation because of the importance his brother always put on it. He especially became interested in conservation biology during his time at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center in Bayside, Wisconsin where, over several years, he attended many summer programs and then later volunteered as a helper for the very same summer programs. Rahul enjoys cooking, baking, and both playing and watching tennis.
Rahul worked with the Wisconsin DNR Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation. During his internship, he assisted with numerous field work projects including monitoring endangered ornate box turtles and Karner blue butterflies.
“This summer, I was lucky enough to work with many different people on a wide variety of projects. I was able to help with a rare plant survey, herptile surveys and freshwater mussel surveys, among many others.”
We are excited to share that Mira and Soumi are also interning with the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin this fall! Soumi will be helping out with development, grant writing, and communications while Mira will focus on communications. We look forward to seeing where all of our 2022 interns go in the future!
This is our second year of the Diversity in Conservation Internship Program, and we are incredibly grateful to our many partners, including our academic partners Lawrence University and University of Wisconsin-Madison; our host organizations International Crane Foundation, Pheasants Forever, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; and to our important funding partners, Schlecht Family Foundation, We Energies Foundation, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. This would not be possible without your support!
You can help provide a meaningful experience for future cohorts of interns in the Diversity in Conservation Internship Program by making a donation to the program online here.
Prepared by Lindsey Taylor, Conservation Programs Coordinator