Carden explores her interest in conservation through hands-on experience with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The sun was peeking over the horizon as she began her day. The Parker River National Wildlife Refuge was slowly coming alive. She had eight to nine hours of work ahead of her on the refuge. Her first task was the upkeep of the grass around the property. Each day was different, but that’s what she liked about her internship. The days repeated for an entire summer, giving her new experiences and skills to carry with her into the future.    

Hannah Carden, junior Fisheries and Wildlife major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Hannah Carden, a junior Fisheries and Wildlife major, spent her time this past summer as a Facilities Management intern at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Carden’s internship was part of a program called the Career Discovery Internship Program, meant to prepare the next generation of wildlife professionals by introducing them to conservation careers in real-life situations.  

“This program really stood out to me,” Carden said. “Because it was centered on developing young people entering this career field and giving them the opportunities to go to different areas that they might not expect themselves to go into.”   

Although her main duties were related to upkeep and maintenance, Carden got to experience many other aspects of the refuge. Sharon Ware, the Deputy Refuge Manager, explained, “Hannah came here to do facilities management, but we also gave her lots of options. You need to get involved,” Ware said. “And we are a small refuge. So, it just kind of happens by default. We all pull together anyways when there’s a need to help each other, but she was involved quite a bit with the biological program.”    

Carden’s love for natural resources, and specifically biology, stems back to her childhood years. “I love nature and getting to learn about science,” Carden said. “Ever since I can remember, I loved getting my hands into things. I loved the idea of taking care of the earth and getting to understand how things worked and how I, as an individual, played a role in it.”   

As a child, Carden was homeschooled, which allowed her the time and resources to explore various pathways and figure out for herself what she was passionate about. It helped cultivate her love for the environment and her drive to make an impact and to be a role model for others with similar backgrounds who haven’t seen themselves represented in environmental and natural resources fields.   

 Carden’s devotion to her passion is what lead her to the Fisheries and Wildlife program at UNL and eventually to the refuge. Carden explained that everyone at the refuge was happy to help her expand her horizons. Not only did she develop new skills, but she also made countless connections with her fellow interns and co-workers.  

“There are so many people and so many moments that I can name with all the staff there,” Carden said. “I definitely would say it turned into a little family towards the end of the summer.”   

Carden’s coworkers provided her with knowledge and guidance, and she brought them new insights in return. “The value that she brought to the refuge was, looking at things with fresh eyes and her enthusiasm, which was one of the highlights for me,” Ware said. “It’s also very inspiring for many of us here to bring in new talent, like Hannah, and know that we’re helping her find her career path, whatever that may be. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a conservation career path…but she’s going to become a conservation advocate no matter what she does.” 

Hannah Carden giving thumb up signs while hiking at summer internship.

Opportunities like Carden’s and many more will be showcased on February 8th at the Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences Career Information Day. The event will take place in Hardin Hall on east campus and will run from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm, with a panel session over the lunch hour featuring four professionals in natural resources & environmental sciences fields.     

The goal of the event is to provide students of all majors access to employers with internships & other opportunities that will help them get involved in natural resources and environmental sciences career pathways. The event is a great way to explore and learn more about the possibilities of each field.  For more information, please visit the Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences Career Information Day home page.  

By Annelise Christen
Annelise Christen Engagement and Connections Coordinator