Voices of Alumni: Ann-Marie Alcántara

In Her Words

Hear Ann-Marie's thoughts on how LEAF impacts urban kids.

A lot of people tell Ann-Marie Alcántara that she should feel proud to be a Latina woman making her mark on the scientific world. But for Ann-Marie, she’s just following her passion and trying to fulfill what she sees as her contribution to the world. In either case, she has much to be proud of.
"I learned so much about the environment — through trail management, invasive species removal and rare species management."


How does a city girl from Queens, New York first get interested in environmental issues?


At first, I was just interested in learning in general. My parents emigrated from Peru in 1984 and decided that they wanted their kids to have “The American Dream.” So, in our house, education was always a priority and always came above everything else. I was a smart kid, but quiet, and I studied a lot. At school, I can remember other kids making fun of me for being smart. Luckily, I was able to transfer into the High School for Environmental Studies — and that’s where my connection to science and nature really began.


How did your summer as a LEAF intern help shape you?


That internship really started me on the academic and career path that I’m on now. As a LEAF intern in New Jersey, I learned so much about the environment — through trail management, invasive species removal and rare species management — but I also learned a lot about working with others and about myself. I also led piping plover public education campaigns to help the community understand the impact of human behavior on threatened shore birds and their nesting areas. After that, I became involved in my school's environmental club, and I wrote a lengthy research paper on sea turtle conservation for my science research honors class.


Wow. It sounds like you were really exposed to a lot of different activities during your internship. What was your most memorable experience as a volunteer?


The most memorable thing that comes to mind is banding an osprey. We had to crawl in marshy, muddy gross stuff, climb a really high ladder and then come face to face with osprey that could gouge your eyes out with their beaks or talons. But it was really cool.


Have you continued to be involved in environmental work now that you’re in college?


When I got accepted to Vassar College, I thought I would be an English major. I love to read and write, and I wanted to be a journalist — or so I thought. My first semester, I took an environmental science class and fell in love with the field and the possibility of it being my major. Come spring semester, I applied for a research internship at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire — the place where acid rain was essentially discovered. I got accepted and spent my freshman summer there, doing research on sugar maple seedlings. When I came back to school, I knew that I wanted to somehow make this my life and career. So, now I am majoring in Environmental Studies with an Urban Studies minor.


What do you hope to do after college?


I'd like to be an environmental journalist — someone who can ‘translate’ scientific findings to the general public. I want to write in a way that appeals to the everyday public and, at the same time, helps them understand environmental science issues. This is how I view my job to the environment and to the world. Everyone wants to feel like they have a sort of purpose in greater society. This is mine.


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