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Fall Intern Profile: May

My name is May Slen and I am the Fall Conservation Intern. I am a student at SF State University anticipating graduation in the spring with a B.S. in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration emphasizing in natural resources and outdoor recreation. I grew up in the city parks and open spaces that my dad brought me to after school where I developed an instinctive sense of exploration and wonder in the outdoors and living creatures and an inevitable skinned knee. I was the kid who played with ladybugs, chewed on sourgrass (oxalis) stems and whose favorite subject was recess! Summer and winter vacation road trips as a kid with my family were fortunate to see amazing and well-preserved views of national parks like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. Taking an AP Environmental Science course in high school solidified my passion for conservation and curiosity in how human activities impact the natural environment, animals and resources we all use and will have for future generations.

At City College of San Francisco my coursework at Heron’s Head Park EcoCenter, an off-the-grid building on a previous city dumping ground, led me to be in the first class to receive a certificate in Sustainability. I worked on projects including habitat restoration, monitoring bird visits, waste-water treatment system education, and studying water-filtering microorganism critters to educate visitors. Participating in projects at a micro level helped me see the natural services that even the smallest microorganisms are capable of providing, that we overlook and take for granted. I believe place-based experiences have a huge impact on educating people to see a connection between our actions and treatment to the environment in the past and the changes we can make today for future generations. I enjoyed encouraging and promoting appreciation of all the plants, insects and animals that holistically make up a healthy, diverse ecosystem.

I want to promote conservation “in my backyard” by participating in and leading conservation program efforts and to share the intrinsic benefits participants can experience from being outdoors. My focus in the major is emphasized on studying natural resource management such as finding a balance in urban outdoor recreation areas and access for park users, plants and fauna, and park neighbors or managing a site-wide planting of host plants for a species of butterfly. In my opinion, a healthy, natural and lively outdoors is the place of utmost importance in which humans have room to stretch, breathe, run, bike, and hike to stay physically and psychologically healthy. I enjoy going on hikes, identifying plants and trying new outdoor recreation activities with other lovers of the outdoors – this season I really enjoy ice skating!

In my nonprofit work experience, I’ve found the support of the community to be the most invaluable factor for local conservation efforts to happen successfully. Sutro Stewards is an organization that’s been able to mobilize local citizens by putting their hands to use for a common goal which they can be proud to represent.

So far as in my internship I’ve experienced planting over 100 plants into the ground in one Saturday with an intimate group of veteran volunteers who truly reflect the mission of the Sutro Stewards, weeding prickly blackberry and nightshade, and learning which native plants are best suited for each unique landscape condition on Mt. Sutro. I’m so grateful and excited to be around such knowledgeable leaders, volunteers and action-takers to learn from.

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