Being a Park Ranger: A Reflection on my Time in St Eustatius

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Author: Laura Clark

My name is Laura Clark, I come from a small town in Alberta and have just moved my life over to the island in the last two years. I am passionate about environmental conservation, sustainability and exploration! A Global Studies internship provided me with the opportunity to incorporate all three of my passions into one incredible trip with the added bonus of upper level credits.

So, where did I go?

I was lucky enough to travel to the small island of St Eustatius, located in the Caribbean. The island has an area of only 21 square kilometers with 3,500 inhabitants. Making it the smallest place I’ve ever traveled to - to give you some perspective Vancouver Island is roughly 31,285 km square and population of 748,937.

What was I doing there?

I joined St. Eustatius National Parks (STENAPA), a non-governmental nature conservation organization that is mandated by the the Island Government to manage all the island’s protected areas. I was able to work alongside this amazing NGO in primarily maintenance and monitoring of the protected areas. The protected parks are comprised of one extinct volcano at the northern end of the island called Boven and a dormant volcano called the Quill at the southern end which have a combined total of seventeen trails. The weekly maintenance of these trails was my biggest task during my stay, ensuring that visitors could safely enjoy the park. After hurricane Irma hit the island in 2017 there was extra debris and rebuilding that had to be done. While I have no carpentry skills, I was able to gain experiences and knowledge that I was not expecting!

 

Alongside this task I was able to carry out monitoring projects of selected species. For example my main focus was on the invasion of the Green Iguana, this species has mated with the local and critically endangered Lesser Antillean Iguana. Working with other stakeholders on the island we conducted surveys to find hybrid specimens and tag/track the native species in order to compile data. On top of this incredible research I got the great opportunity to volunteer for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF),to run interviews with local fishermen and restaurants to understand how to create a more sustainable fishing market in the Dutch Caribbean.

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What did I take away from this internship?

The three months I spent in St Eustatius, working for STENAPA and WWF provided me with valuable and applicable skills and knowledge that I could integrate into my studies back at Vancouver Island University. Not only did it align with the passions I had going into the trip, allowing me to hike 4x a week, dive daily in the marine park and handle dinosaur like iguanas; it also built onto those interests and led me to discover possible careers. A new culture, language, geography and work experience took me completely out of my comfort zone and expanded my aspirations beyond what I could have imagined. 

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