As I reflect on my internship with Osa Conservation, I really appreciate so much the skills I learned throughout the summer. I measured and gathered data from a total of about 1,250 trees with a great field team in about the span of 1 month, which was intense but very satisfactory at the end. I learned how the entire research process works from start to finish: project idea; design; budget; preparation; daily fieldwork; team management; data entry, compilation, and analysis; and preparation and technique standardization for replacement researchers. I also learned more about the levels of taxonomic classifications for plants, as well as specific Latin names from the local set of tropical trees. I learned about the collaboration that goes on among various NGOs with similar interests to pursue projects that could not otherwise get done with the limited resources from a single NGO, which is very important for NGO development. Given that Osa Conservation has former workers from Conservation International, it has developed this successful model of NGO growth, development, and empowerment.
Being back on campus, I hope to build off of this experience by continuing my focused pursuit of as many environmental-science concepts as I can learn while at Brandeis, as well as wherever I decide to go after graduation. My time abroad has motivated me to make the effort to promote my Environmental Studies minor into a major; as a senior it may not be possible at this point but I will certainly do everything I can to make it so! I will also continue to promote environmentalism alongside the student community on campus through Students for Environmental Action. After Brandeis, I hope to continue studying similar interests like plant ecology and forestry in graduate school, perhaps alongside a professor at Lehigh whom I met at the research station where I was staying.
While the data collection for this project is part of a multi-year effort, in the future I do hope to take on the many other challenges that climate change issues currently pose to the natural world. I feel that I have yet to learn about the multitude of issues that deal specifically with climate change, but as of now I know that I am interested in detailing the potential of sustainable ways of life—a very important way being organic agriculture—to mitigate climate change. Essentially, my most fundamental goal in my work life is to best prove (using science, I believe) how putting all of our ideas about sustainability into practice can actually give the results that today’s, future, and older generations (often filled with skeptics) need to start pushing for and adopting a new ideal of societal development and advancement. I am at the stage where I want to learn about how the most successful existing models of sustainability work (which seem rare and found all over the world and require travel). Later I aim to reach a stage where I alone have the capacity and know-how to establish these models in places that need them. The real beauty about practical sustainability models is that most of the world needs them—they truly transcend boundaries of old divisions like “first” and “third” worlds.
Advice that I would give to a student interested in working with Osa Conservation: make sure you know what you want from the internship and why you are going to Osa Conservation’s wildlife refuge. I say this in a down-to-earth way because the organization does not have many personnel, which means that everyone will always be busy because there is so much more to do than there are workers. This means that while you will have a supervisor and/or mentors, they will not be with you for much of the day. So, set your schedule, be your own boss, take advantage of opportunities as they come, and you should get everything you want from your experience and more!
Advice that I would give to a student interested in working in conservation biology and related fields: you are striving to set world trends of development. World sustainability systems are not yet entirely structurally stable, so it may be hard to make a living, especially financially. So, be prepared to let your life and work be driven by passion and love! Also be sure to make the most of funding, grant, and scholarship opportunities.
Thank you to everyone who helped me make this experience a reality!
Nicholas Medina ’14