As my time as an Ogallala Commons Intern draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on challenges overcome, tasks successfully completed, and lessons learned. While my journey has been a bit of a roller coaster at times, I have enjoyed expanding my knowledge, forming new perceptions, and having the opportunity to lead and teach children about playa ecosystems and aquifer conservation. The most rewarding and enjoyable aspects of my internship have been the Playa Field Days and assisting with the Stewarding Our Aquifer tours.  Having the opportunity to lead local children through educational activities and witnessing their excitement and willingness to learn about playa ecosystems brought pride and hope for our future generations. Likewise, watching adults ask questions about current resource management practices and discuss alternatives was enlightening. I learned more about resource management in our area and how local farmers and ranchers are challenging social and traditional norms to find new ways of conserving our most valuable resources.

Aside from filming the presenters at our Field and SOA Days and posting those videos to sharable Google Drive folders, my main projects have included updating educational presentations, writing and creating short reading assignments and activities for students, and digitizing a “Playa Trunk” lesson book for teachers. Save for the Playa Trunk activities, all of the materials I have updated or written were uploaded to Google Drive as well for Darryl to distribute to interested teachers. I was also happy to be involved in the Harvest Basket project that took place in Lubbock this fall for my community service project. The largest challenges I faced during my internship included working another full-time job in addition to this internship, and learning new aspects of Google Drive that I have not used before. There was a definite learning curve to uploading, organizing, and creating sharable links for the materials needed. Over time, I found better ways to film presenters and edit the videos on my phone before uploading them.

At the beginning of my internship, I was asked to come up with three goals; one for communication, on for leadership, and one for professional networking. My communication goal was to reach a point where I am more comfortable and confident in front of large groups – something I have been trying to achieve since my days in 4-H and throughout college. Despite my interactions with others during our Playa Field Days and other tours in addition to my Harvesting Ceremony presentation, this communication goal is something I must continue to work on. My leadership goal also involved confidence in myself. A leader is someone who is able to provide advice, knowledge, and a direction for others. A leader also needs to be dependable and trustworthy and have the ability to lead with confidence, even when they do not have all the answers. Through this internship I have gained new knowledge and confidence that helps me feel I can be a better leader in my community, particularly when it comes to children and outreach. My networking goal was to make connections within my career field because Wildlife Biology involves many aspects of the environment, from water and soil to agriculture to renewable energy. Therefore, it was – and is – important for me to expand my network and continue learning about the work the experts are doing within their career fields. I have had the opportunity to meet experts from Texas Parks and Wildlife and High Plains Water District, as well as colleagues such as Robert Martin and Justin Trammell. And last but not least, having the opportunity to work under Darryl has been a privilege. As I reflect on these last few months, I have newfound pride in myself and the people I have met, those who endeavor to make our small part of the world a better place for future generations. This has truly been a rewarding experience, and I will always carry these new memories and skills with me.

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