By Olivia Beitelspacher, public affairs specialist
Meet Kathya Arugeta, our newest Hispanic Access Foundation intern! Kathya talks about her experiences while studying abroad and highlights a conservation hero with an inspirational legacy. Learn more about Kathya in the latest Faces of the Fish and Wildlife interview!
Olivia Beitelspacher: Hi Kathya, welcome to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service! What role do you play within the agency?
Kathya Argueta: I am a biologist intern with the Hispanic Access Foundation and I have two main responsibilities. The first is analyzing and collecting data for the BeachCOMBERS program. BeachCOMBERS is a community citizen science project that is managed by the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Service Office that involves surveying for coastal marine mammal and bird carcasses. These surveys help keep our office and our partners informed about marine mammal and bird mortality rates and causes of death. We use this information to educate local communities about the meaning behind these fluctuating numbers. The second half of my job is writing and editing documents such as species profiles and status of species narratives which are then published on the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office website or used for consultations.
OB: Those sound like fun and important responsibilities! What led you to a career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?
KA: What led me to apply to work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was my curiosity for all organisms as well as my strong desire to protect them and teach others how to properly protect them as well. I was inspired to apply as a biologist intern for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when I did a field studies semester abroad in Costa Rica to learn about sustainable development. It was there that I learned many sustainable practices and of course was able to experience some crazy biodiversity leading me to scour Google for a job in this field!
OB: Costa Rica is a beautiful country and I’m glad your experience there was so transformative! Can you tell us where you go to school and what you’re studying?
KA: I am currently finishing up my bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of San Diego.
OB: Do you have any conservation heroes?
KA: My conservation hero is Valerie Taylor because she is a woman who shared her experiences, hardships, work ethic, passion and errors with the world. At a young age she overcame her first life obstacle-polio. Then, throughout her life, she had to deal with double standards and gender inequality. This pushed her to work even harder to be the best at everything she did. Her life story shows immense personal growth because she began as a recreational spear fisher, then became a photographer, filmmaker and finally a well-known conservationist.
Valerie Taylor helped demystify sharks and teach people about their intelligence, eating behaviors and personalities. She was one of the first people to willingly go cage-free diving while surrounded by hundreds of great white sharks and other species of sharks in order to learn more about them.
The main reason why she’s my conservation hero is because at one point in her career, she got mixed up in the world of Hollywood and assisted in filming scenes for a famous Hollywood film-Jaws. However, once this movie was released, she realized how the movie created more fear towards sharks, which lead to huge killing sprees. She decided to put her foot down and began rewriting her message. She did not let her pride or paycheck win her over and instead dedicated the rest of her life to informing people about the beauty, benefits and importance of sharks. Thanks to Valerie Taylor’s activism, the grey nurse shark became safeguarded and a marine sanctuary zone was established in Australia. Her activism helped educate people from all over the world and has helped recreate the image of a top predator species.
OB: Wow, what an incredible legacy. I had no idea that she worked on Jaws. She truly is an inspiration. So, Kathya, tell us about a particular project from your career or schooling that makes you really proud.
KA: A project that I am very proud of is the research that I did in Costa Rica. While abroad, I contributed to a research paper that addressed the decline of amphibian species in Costa Rica. A couple of my classmates and I were able to finish writing this paper that consisted of 10 years’ worth of research and have submitted it for review to get published. Although our paper has not been published yet, it is in the works!
OB: Congratulations, that is an amazing accomplishment! How do you spend your free time?
KA: I spend my free time hiking, swimming and snorkeling at the beach, or at home with my dog Lassie.
OB: What fun hobbies! Lastly, do you have a hidden talent?
KA: I don’t have any hidden talents, but I did play water polo in college and am a very good swimmer!
OB: You’ll have to teach me how to play sometime! Thanks Kathya!