Two people in separate photos side-by-side smile, one has sunglasses on their head and is in a white room, the other is outside in front of a river and has a blue bucket hat on.

Meet interns Sue Ellen Gibbs-Huerta and Maddison Falcon Orquiz

We’ve been presented with a unique opportunity to kick off 2024: we have two interns helping us out! Sue Ellen Gibbs-Huerta and Maddison Falcon Orquiz are both majoring in Environmental Science at University of Texas at San Antonio. They are joining us thanks to a collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Student Conservation Association (SCA). Their work will be overseen by the USFWS Center for Pollinator Conservation. We’re excited for the opportunity to collaborate with these great students and look forward to what they accomplish in the upcoming months. Join us in welcoming Sue Ellen and Maddison!

What is your favorite pollinator species?

Sue Ellen: Rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis)

Maddison: Sword-billed hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera)

What will you will be doing for your internship?

Sue Ellen: Maddie and I are working to get our university, The University of Texas at San Antonio, certified as a Bee Campus. We are also working towards gaining certification for San Antonio as an official Bee City USA. While we are still in the early works of planning how we want to go about gaining each certification, we are truly so excited and buzzing with ideas for how we will accomplish our goals.

For Bee Campus, we are hoping to create a diverse and integrated committee that are all as passionate about pollinator conservation as we are. We plan to create a pollinator habitat and implement pollinator conservation into some course curriculums that would help to expand student knowledge on pollinators with hands-on time in the habitat we create.

For Bee City USA, we are in the works of creating a committee of passionate city leaders and other individuals that will help move the city in the right direction with pollinator conservation. We are also in talks with Bee City committee members from cities that are currently certified for guidance and help navigating this process!

How did you get interested in pollinator conservation?

Sue Ellen: I got interested with nature in general with my dad. It started with space, always looking through our telescope at whatever I could see. Then we began to go camping, go for hikes, anything we could do to be out of the house and in nature. My favorite part of it all was going outside to play with the bees, allowing them to land on me as often as they would. In 2019, I began working for a restaurant/company that cared about its ecological footprint. That, combined with my already existing love for the planet, inspired this passion and drive for conservation that I hadn’t experienced before. I switched from a chemistry degree to environmental science and the rest was history! Since then, I have done everything I can to educate myself, so that I may help educate others. While I have done a lot of research and field work, I have never gotten into pollinator conservation directly until now, and I could not be more excited! To be doing this work, being the people making the change happen directly, it is truly so inspiring. It is a new opportunity to make change, help our planet, and of course—save the bees!

Maddison: My family has been camping in Northern Arizona since my parents were children. Outdoorsy adventures shaped my profound passion for environmental conservation and sustainability. Early on, I knew my happiness lay in a career devoted to bettering our environment. College deepened this commitment, unveiling the crucial role pollinators play in shaping ecosystems, influencing both living and non-living aspects. Recognizing the pivotal role of pollinators in countless organisms’ survival, I’ve witnessed their struggle amid climate change and pesticide use. I have decided that I want to play a part in the revitalization of pollinator communities and help educate the public on how important these organisms are. When this internship came knocking at my door, I knew I had to get on board. I am so excited to work with USFWS and the SCA and learn more about what is currently being done to save pollinators. I can’t wait to dive in, play my part, and spread awareness about the significance of these tiny heroes!

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