New Mexico

Q&A with Intern David Diaz

Instead of kicking up his feet, 23-year-old David Diaz rolled up his sleeves and took on some tough tasks during an internship with The Nature Conservancy in New Mexico. Not only did the University of Florida graduate gain valuable work experience, he also embraced a new culture. The Conservancy spent time with this promising bilingual conservationist…
“New Mexico is the land of enchantment. The scenery and environment is out of this world!”

- David Diaz, Intern

How did you find your way to The Nature Conservancy?

David Diaz:

I read about someone doing an internship with the Conservancy in Ecuador and I thought that sounded cool. I did some research on the Conservancy with special focus on conservation ecology. I decided New Mexico would be the best place for that kind of work…and that’s where I landed.

What inspired you to get into conservation?

David Diaz:

While I was in college I was lucky enough to study in Brazil. I expected to see the forests well kept. When I was there I saw firsthand the terrible shape they were in. I saw potential for helping conservation efforts.

Describe what you did during your internship?

David Diaz:

A lot of my focus on the Gila National Forest was stewardship and easement monitoring. I also worked on a hydrological survey to help determine climate change impact. I got some experience working with a variety of partners while in the Jemez Mountains. We focused on photo monitoring. There are set GPS points across the mountains. Every 5-10 years, you find those points and take pictures to see how the landscape has changed. From the forest I went to the grasslands in southeastern New Mexico. While I was there, I determined where prairie dogs were living and how many were living there.

Did you have any aha moments while you were in the field?

David Diaz:

Oh yeah, I’ll never forget my time in the grasslands. While monitoring prairie dogs I had to get on my knees and look into holes in the ground. I saw tons of black widows. Then, I’d get up to move to the next hole and I’d run into a rattlesnake. You don’t see any of that at first. Then, you get close up and it’s a whole different world.

How has the internship impacted you?

David Diaz:

This experience has helped me grow. Conservancy colleagues pushed me to expand my horizons in the field and in the office. They made me feel like I was part of their team and that made me work even harder. It was a wonderful experience and I’m grateful.

What is your dream job?

David Diaz:

I hope to do conservation work abroad. I want to help developing countries protect their environmental and cultural resources. I’ve seen how important it is to get communities engaged in conservation work. I want to be a part of that movement.

Aside from the cool work you did, what will you tell your friends and family about New Mexico?

David Diaz:

New Mexico is the land of enchantment. The scenery and environment is out of this world! The sunsets paint the sky with blues and purples. They’re unforgettable. I’ve also become a fan of country music. I never really understood it before. Now I have a stronger connection to it.

What about the food? Did you try anything new?

David Diaz:

I bit into a green chili cheeseburger on my first night in New Mexico. The spices nearly brought tears to my eyes, but that didn’t keep me from ordering green chili cheeseburgers all summer. Frito pies were new to me, too. They’re awesome, piled high with chili, cheese and jalapenos. Bottom line… I’m into spicy food now.

From New Mexico, David’s heading to the east coast for a few months. Next up is grad school where he plans to get a master’s in Conservation Ecology.


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