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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

DON EDWARDS SAN FRANCISCO BAY NWR: Refuge Intern Reaches Latino Community with Bilingual Programs

Region 8, April 24, 2012
Cindy Moreno, with a class at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay NWR.
Cindy Moreno, with a class at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay NWR. - Photo Credit: n/a

By Doug Cordell, Public Affairs

“When I started college, I took an environmental studies course,” explains Cindy Moreno, Environmental Education and Latino Outreach intern at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, describing how her interest in a career in environmental work developed. “It seemed relevant—that somehow I could make a difference. And it was a lot of fun!”

Now Moreno is a senior at San Jose State University majoring in environmental studies, and her work at the refuge is making a real difference. Using her environmental training and Spanish language skills, she’s developed bilingual outreach and education programs, helping the refuge do a better job of connecting with its neighboring, predominantly Latino community in Alviso, CA.

Much of her focus has been on weekend Spanish-English programs at the refuge’s Environmental Education Center in Alviso, with subjects ranging from “Birds in a Changing Climate” to “Birding in Latino Culture.” She’s also developed bilingual outreach materials and activities for the refuge’s annual South Bay Bird Fest, or Festival de Aves de la Bahía Sur.

The challenge has been to reach a community that hasn’t traditionally had a lot of interaction with wildlife refuges—something Moreno understands as a Latino native of Arvin, CA. It’s why she’s been proactive about conducting bilingual programs for the refuge at local libraries, like the Biblioteca Latinoamericana branch of the San Jose Public Library.

It’s also why she developed a bilingual Careers in Wildlife day at the refuge, a chance for high school and college students—particularly Latinos—to talk to refuge biologists, wildlife specialists, law enforcement and other staff about career opportunities. It’s an issue she is passionate about.

“When I first told my parents I was interested in environmental studies, they were bewildered. They didn’t understand what it was about. It’s not a common career in the Latino community. That’s why I think it’s important to reach people in the community at an early age—to let them know this is something they can do.”

Moreno’s internship is co-funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the Environment for the Americas, a non-profit group based in Boulder, CO that sponsors International Migratory Bird Day and develops Latino outreach programs about conservation.

She hopes that the Service will continue and expand its outreach and education efforts aimed at historically underserved communities. “It’s so important to have an appreciation for different cultures,” she says, “especially in a place as diverse as the Bay Area.”

Moreno plans to continue her own environmental education with a masters degree. After that, she’ll be looking for a full-time position—and perhaps a return someday to the Service, where she has already had a big impact.

Contact Info: Doug Cordell, 510-774-4080, doug_cordell@fws.gov