Daniel Cisneros: Faces of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Q&A

By Olivia Beitelspacher, public affairs specialist

Meet one of our newest DFP interns Daniel Cisneros! Daniel discusses his upcoming project and the experiences and people that helped shape his passion for conservation. Learn more about Daniel in the latest Faces of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service interview.

Olivia Beitelspacher: Welcome to the Fish and Wildlife Service Daniel! What project will you be working on this summer?

Daniel Cisneros: This summer I will be interning with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Ecological Society of America’s SEEDS Partnership for Undergraduate Research as a Kendra Chan Fellow. I am excited to be a part of an ongoing effort to recover federally listed plants on the Northern Channel Islands, as well as continue the legacy of Kendra Chan’s impact on the natural world that she cared so much for. This will include the development of a story map with the purpose of spreading awareness about the importance of these species' to the ecology of the Channel Islands.

OB: What a great opportunity to continue Kendra’s legacy. We’re glad to have you with us! What led you to choosing to intern with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?

DC: I have always had a genuine curiosity for the natural world. As I started to focus my studies during my earlier years of college, I began to learn about how important regulations and wildlife management are to the conservation of plants, animals, and their surrounding environments. During my undergrad, I learned how influential the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was to conservation movements and since then I have been motivated to be a part of that legacy.

OB: Speaking of undergrad, where do you go to school and what do you study?

DC: I am a fourth year student at the University of California at Santa Barbara studying Ecology and Evolution.

OB: Very cool! So tell us, do you have a conservation hero?

DC: My conservation hero is Kelly Hildner, the restoration coordinator of the Storke Ranch Open Space. After moving to the Storke Ranch housing complex in 2003, she took personal action to preserve a local vernal pool habitat that was unused and overrun with weeds. She organized community efforts to control the invasive plant populations and ultimately took on the responsibility of managing the vernal pool’s restoration projects. Her initial curiosity of the local habitat around her community sparked a movement in her own neighborhood and attracted the support of environmental agencies including U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the Coastal Fund of the University of California Santa Barbara, and the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project. Her story continues to inspire me to stay active in the community around me.

OB: Wow, she sounds like an amazing person! It’s so great to hear stories about individuals who see an issue and decide to take action. Is there a particular project from your career or schooling that makes you really proud?

DC: I was a Vegetation and Monitoring Intern with the National Parks Service in the Santa Monica Mountains during the summer of 2020. On one project in particular, I was sent with a small group to locate Lepechinia fragrans, a plant species of special concern with limited distribution. We had very little information of the exact whereabouts of a population so it was essentially an all-day scavenger hunt! We bushwhacked through steep slopes and sought refuge from the sun under canopies of chaparral. After hours of hiking, we excitedly found a good-sized population and were able to obtain an herbarium sample as well as collect data on their population and surrounding environment. I felt incredibly proud to locate a remote population with a group of like-minded individuals in pursuit of restoring and understanding the native plants of the Santa Monica Mountains.

OB: That sounds both exhausting and incredibly rewarding! What a great accomplishment. So Daniel, how do you spend your free time?

DC: During my free time I can almost certainly be found at the beach, surfing, running, and playing volleyball with my neighbors. I like to tend to my native garden with my cat and listen to music throughout my downtime.

OB: I love the variety of activities! There’s never time to be bored that way. And lastly, do you have a hidden talent?

DC: Not many people know that I like to paint and sketch portraits of people and plants. I used to explore my creativity a lot more when I was younger but during the pandemic I was able to find time to experiment with different art mediums such as charcoal and acrylics.

OB: I’d love to see some of your drawings some time! Thanks Daniel!

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