Student Spotlight: Alyssa Martinez

Doris Duke Scholar Alyssa Martinez

Alyssa Martinez is a Zoology major in the Department of Biological Sciences. Originally from a small town in upstate New York, she now considers North Carolina her home. Coming from a “sub-rural” town exposed her to a lot of wildlife and opportunities to get lost in the natural world. She spent much of her time growing up wandering in the woods around her home, which inspired her to pursue preserving natural places and their inhabitants.

Recently, Martinez volunteered at the Trevor Zoo in Millbrook, N.Y. for two years, where she worked with lemurs, emus, coatis, etc., in areas of enrichment and exhibit maintenance. The zoo’s main focus was to educate the public through exhibits that encourage environmental awareness and conservation participation. From that experience, Martinez realized she was interested in conservation and hoped to pursue a career promoting the proliferation of sustainable resources across the world. In the future, she would love to work at a biodiversity hotspot, such as Madagascar, to help locals create sustainable living with the environment to preserve the wildlife for future generations.

More recently, as part of the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at NC State, administered by the University of Florida IFAS and supported by a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Martinez spent a summer as the Outreach Intern for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) New York Field Office. As the Outreach Intern, she managed their social media, wrote articles for the USFWS Northeast Region word-press site, created educational wildlife material for the public, organized a camp for at-risk youth and created interpretive signage for the Ithaca Children’s Garden. She also assisted field biologists with their research.

Back at NC State, Martinez is very involved in Zoology Club, which provides a variety of valuable volunteer opportunities at the various wildlife centers and organizations around Raleigh, and the High-Powered Rocketry Club, which is completely different from her major and classes, but provides an interesting environment to work with people outside her major.

How did your USFWS internship impact you?

I gained experience creating material for the public, working with professionals in my field and fostered valuable connections with my co-workers.

What did you learn about yourself from this experience?

I learned that I love working with the public, but first and foremost, I love field work. I spent most of my summer in an office and realized I cannot flourish in an office environment. My favorite days were spent out in the field helping biologists. Now, I know my future career must involve field work.

What did you enjoy most about this experience?

The New York Field Office (NYFO) was the most welcoming group of people I have ever had the pleasure to work with. Despite being the youngest and most inexperienced person in the office, they treated me like their equal.

What did you find most challenging?

Many of my duties as the Outreach Intern involved tasks I have never done before. For example, I was asked to create interpretative signage for the Ithaca Children’s Garden. I love to take complex science material and describe it in a way the public can understand, but this task was a little different. I had to create something that could be understood by a child too young to read. It also had to be colorful and flashy enough to catch their eye and uphold the missions of the USFWS and the Garden in each sign. It was all very new to me and intimidating, but I knew I could do it. I faced challenges like that throughout the summer working for NYFO, but I proved to myself that I could do it and, boy was it satisfying.

Would you recommend this experience to other students?

I would recommend the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at NC State to anyone interested in environmental careers. It is a unique opportunity to gain research experience and work at an agency of your choosing. I gained valuable experience working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.