Written by Marisa Armijo
I’m from Ribera, a rural community in the southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico. I am currently attending Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, where I hope to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Wildlife and Fisheries and an Associate of Arts in Agricultural Sciences this May. Growing up an outdoorswoman – hunting, fishing, and hiking – sparked my passion for nature and my interest in a career conserving and protecting it.
Working for the Forest Stewards Guild, first as a Forest Stewards Youth Corps (FSYC) crew member, then a FSYC crew leader, and now a mentee, has furthered my interest in conservation and forestry and taught me a wide range of knowledge and skills, from plant ecology to GIS, ecological monitoring to networking, fence repair to team building. The Forest Stewards Mentorship Program, which I joined last September, provides support and training for youth from northern New Mexico to further their careers in natural resource management, forestry, and conservation. It has provided me with a tremendous amount of guidance, motivation, and strategies for personal and professional growth.
One of the skills I have acquired through the Mentorship program is data entry and management as I worked with aspen stand data associated with the Zuni Mountains Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project. You may think data entry is not a big deal, but to me it is incredibly valuable as it is a key component of monitoring which allows us to detect changes in ecological communities over time. In the fall, I also completed an independent project entitled “Management of Exotic Ungulates in Southern New Mexico”, where I researched the behavior, biology, and ecology of the African Oryx, Persian Ibex, and Barbary Sheep, and made recommendations for their management.
The Mentorship Program has provided a broad view of topics such as forest ecology, biodiversity conservation, and climate change. In addition to technical aspects, it has given me the opportunity to shadow Guild staff, to learn about their experiences and see what their day-to-day is like. I’m more than grateful for having the opportunity to participate in this program and especially for the support of Cora and Mateo. I look forward to continuing to grow and advance my career in conservation.