Francisco Emilio Vázquez – From Meetings to Greetings to Birds A-Fleeting!

During my first few weeks here at the Alaska Public Lands Information Center (APLIC), I have been fully immersed in the day-to-day work we do for the general public. Due to our current situation surrounding COVID-19, we have not been able to open our doors to the public, but we still serve as a point of contact for anyone looking for information on public lands. We connect with the public through a booth that is set up outside, and here we provide visitors with information on different campsites, hiking trails, and any information they may need for trip planning. As we are part of the National Park Service, a lot of the staff’s expertise is based on the different National Parks that exist in Alaska, but working at the APLIC has garnered them knowledge on everything in Alaska.

Stream with crystal clear water provided by ice melt.

Alongside working with the staff at the information center, I’ve also had the opportunity to meet staff from the Regional Office who work in different sectors of the park service. For example, I spent a day hiking with Mary Kate Repetski, the Youth and Education Program Coordinator for the APLIC. Throughout this 3 hour hike, not only did we enjoy what Chugach State Park had to offer, but we also discussed what it meant to be a servant to the public and how important our knowledge is. As public servants, we answer to the call of the people who reach out to us, and every interaction we have with them is an opportunity to instill a sense of stewardship in them so they, too, can care for public lands. Whether we are working with adults or children, everyone can learn and grow, and in those moments, we serve a critical role in educating and helping promote their personal growth.

Glacial trough in Chugach State Park.

I’ve also had an opportunity to attend training with Joel Cusick, a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist for the National Park Service. Through this training, I received first-hand experience on what it means to be working out in the field and collecting data. As a student interested in the field of GIS and the possibility of working with geographic information systems, this opportunity presented me with what is expected of me as a potential employee of the national park service. These opportunities also serve as a reminder that people are paid to do this, this is a career that I can pursue, and every moment I spent out in the field I felt invigorated to continue working towards a national park service employee!

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