As someone who was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, I’ve always been aware of our proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border. I grew up in a city and went to schools with a strong Mexican-American presence, and it’s something I’ve always cherished. In high school I became curious about how border barriers affect wildlife. Then during my senior year at Tucson High I was able to join a University of Arizona research project on how these barriers specifically affect bobcats.
That’s why I was so excited to be part of Sky Island Alliance’s Path of the Jaguar Internship this summer now that I’m a rising senior at the UA. I’ve learned so much already, and this past week a group of us interns joined two SIA staff members, Eamon Harrity and Bryon Lichtenhan, and went to the U.S.-Mexico border to do field work. Our main goals for the week were to locate springs, document them via the Spring Seeker program, and check cameras for the Border Wildlife Study.
On the first day, while visiting our first spring, I fell three times — a very humbling way to start the week. Each day, almost every hike to a spring or camera was a physical struggle. But I had fun spending time with my fellow interns and learning from Sky Island Alliance staff.
I loved seeing wildlife up close — many for the first time in my life. Species like Montezuma quail, a beautiful pink-toned coachwhip snake, toads and frogs, and so many cool insects! It’s been on my bucket list to hold a cicada, and Bryon was gracious enough to catch one and hold onto it so I could experience it for myself. I also appreciated the rain that followed us throughout our days in the field. As an Arizona native, it was very special to see the rain clouds form above us.
Overall, even though I ended up with three blisters on my feet and feeling like I just came out of a blender, I’m glad I did it! My ankles did not shatter, and I came back home in one piece. By the end of the trip, Sky Island Alliance staff members Bryon and Eamon adopted us interns, and we became one big happy “field family.” I’m super thankful, honored, and privileged to be able to have had such an amazing experience in our borderlands.
Photos by Nadira Mitchell.