By Olivia Beitelspacher, public affairs specialist
Meet one of our newest interns Celeste Chen! Carly discusses what led her to a career in conservation and the mentors that have supported her along the way. Learn more about Celeste in the latest Faces of the Fish and Wildlife Service interview.
Olivia Beitelspacher: Welcome to the team Celeste! What role do you play within the agency?
Celeste Chen: I am a Kendra Chan Directorate Fellows Program intern (DFP) with the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office. I am focusing on western monarch butterfly outreach and restoration. My internship involves sampling milkweed from 20 sites (17 throughout the Santa Monica Mountains, one at CSU Channel Islands, and two on Santa Cruz Island) to analyze the pesticide concentrations found within the plants. The other half of my internship is focused on outreach where I attend events to help educate the public on western monarch butterflies and milkweed.
OB: That sounds like such a fun and interesting project! The DFP is an amazing opportunity for students who are interested in a conservation career to do meaningful work and get their foot in the door with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And the Kendra Chan fellowship is a particularly special fellowship for our office that champions diversity in conservation. What led you to seek an internship with our agency?
CC: It all truly started when I moved to San Marcos to attend Texas State University to study animal science and plant and soil science. It was there that I was able to immerse myself in nature and pursue my dreams to protect and conserve the natural world by working with raptors, dung beetles, and livestock. When I discovered this internship, I didn’t realize how perfect it would be for me. Having a balance of research and field work, and education and outreach while working with passionate and caring people has truly solidified my purpose to work in conservation and spread love.
OB: Do you have any conservation heroes or mentors?
CC: My internship supervisor Karen Sinclair has truly been the best supporter and mentor for my internship. She is extremely caring and is always super resourceful. Dr. Ken Mix is another one of my mentors. He was the first professor to take me under their wing and encourage me to step out of my comfort zone. He has uplifted and included me which allowed me to expand into something I’m very passionate about: insects. He took my passion, interests and efforts to help me build an undergraduate research project.
OB: It’s great to hear that you’ve had such wonderful supporters throughout your journey! Can you tell us about a particular project from your career or schooling that makes you really proud?
CC: My current undergraduate research project is focused on dung beetles and the effects of pesticides through generations. I was able to build this research into something unique, examining residues of insect growth regulators and anthelmintics and how they affect these beneficial nontarget organisms.
OB: Wow! What a neat topic for a project. And lastly, how do you spend your free time?
CC: I love to read, create art and explore natural areas. I am a big river person and am often at the river reading, drawing and practicing yoga. I am also a big foodie; I love to try new restaurants and recipes.
OB: We will definitely need to swap recipes sometime! Thanks Celeste!