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Leslie Garcia is an intern in the Natural Areas Conservancy’s Summer 2023 CUNY internship program, working on the Citywide Trails team. She recently graduated from CUNY with a Bachelor’s in Environmental Science and minor in Studio Arts.

Read on to learn more about Leslie and what she’s been up to at the NAC!

What inspired you to apply to the NAC internship program?

LG: After doing conservation and restoration work in California for a year, I was dedicated to find more fieldwork in New York while attending college. Having an interest in natural science and ecology, I approached my geology professor and asked for any guidance to organizations he’s heard about. I was then connected with Jessica Hoch, who enlightened me on the preservation, restoration, and conservation of natural areas in New York City. Natural Area Conservancy provided me with a part-time paid internship that allowed me to branch off in the science field. NAC has a partnership with NYC Parks department, which piqued my interest.

What project are you involved in specifically? What drew you to it?

LG: The project I am currently involved in is with the Citywide Trails team, doing work in conservation and practicing mapping, formalization, and restoration. What drew me in was a passion for the environment, being connected to nature, and feeling a deep appreciation for its beauty, value, and the work towards its preservation.

I was concerned about biodiversity loss and the ongoing decline of species and ecosystems due to factors like habitat destruction, pollution, climate change, and lack of maintenance. I was also interested in the direction of a sustainable future, where both human well-being and the health of the planet can coexist harmoniously. Lastly, increasing environmental education and awareness motivates individuals to take action and make a positive difference.

What’s your trail tip?

LG: New York City is home to several fantastic parks and trails. Most of my time with Citywide Trails, I have developed an admiration for Staten Island Greenbelt. With over 2,800 acres, it provides a tranquil escape from the city with diverse ecosystems, hiking trails, and birdwatching opportunities.

My trail tip would be to respect nature. When on trails, practice Leave No Trace principles, which promote responsible outdoor ethics. You would be doing your part by staying on designated trails, pack out what you pack in, and minimizing your impact on flora or fauna.

What’s your favorite flora or fauna you can find in NYC?

LG: My favorite flora would probably be the red clover: Trifolium pratense. It’s a wildflower with vibrant pink, or purple flower heads and delicate clover petals. Red clover is highly attractive to a wide range of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and other insects. Its abundant nectar and pollen supply makes it an important food source for these vital creatures. Red clover has also been used in traditional herbal medicine for centuries.

What can New Yorkers do to protect or improve our natural areas?

LG: Being mindful of your impacts, supporting local initiatives, and encouraging others, can help you create a more sustainable and natural environment in New York City. Finding ways to be involved within your local community in volunteer work can range from clean-up events, planting native trees, or advocating for stronger environmental policies. Reduce your environmental footprint by making sustainable choices in your daily life, like taking public transportation, conserving energy in your home, and adopting eco-friendly habits.

Where do you hope to go next within the fields of conservation or activism?

LG: I hope to lean towards the science aspect of conservation, more data collection on ecological restoration, or management and assessment that implement these projects. I also hope to be able to collect data and transform it into educational material to bring awareness and actions with results.

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