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Guest Blogger: Maddie Davet – 2017 Collegiate Conservation Program Intern

Maddie Davet is a sophomore at Duke University and was a Collegiate Conservation Program (CCP) intern during the 2017 summer.  Take a look at Maddie’s experience and head to the CCP website to learn more and to apply for summer 2018!

What do you get when you put together thirteen strangers, an endless supply of animal crackers, and one glistening white work van full of gas? I got one of the best summers of my life.

Reflecting on my time with the Houston Zoo’s Collegiate Conservation Program conjures a whole sea of memories – from work to play, and hill country to bay. After 10 weeks spent learning alongside some of the motivated environmentalists I have met to date, it is daunting to gather my thoughts. I have changed for the better, that is for sure. I am armed with renewed passion for conservation, an arsenal of field skills, and a network that spans well beyond Texas’s borders.

One of the greatest opportunities CCP provided me was simply the ability to connect with my fellow interns. As an undergraduate at Duke University, I have met other students from all around the world, studying everything from patent law to molecular physics; however, I’ve struggled to find diverse perspectives within my school’s environmental department. A program like CCP, which selects from undergraduate applicants across the entire country, provides opportunity for diverse dialogues about conservation and sustainability. These conversations were constantly unfolding between our group of interns, and I developed a reputation for jumping into heated discussion every chance I got.

The other undergraduates were just one source of inspiration, however. Between our on-grounds days at the Houston Zoo, the many excursions we made to the Zoo’s local partners, and the handful of global conservationists who skyped in or visited us in Houston, there were a plethora voices to be heard from. I found myself learning everything from how to effectively wield a machete in East Texas to the ins and outs of community outreach in the Brazilian Pantanal. Hearing from all sorts of Zoo visitors and employees, from Exxon’s Communication Director to the CEO of the Zoo to our favorite keeper, was an indelible gift. Their insight, alongside the many experiences I gained this past summer, gave me the confidence to choose a way forward in my own life as a conservationist.

By the end of the internship, after many introductions as the “undecided” girl with an interest in anthropology, I had been inspired to declare my plans. I stood up at the final presentation and proclaimed my intent to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science, the formal declaration of which I am writing up today. For that confidence, and for the many memories it accompanies, I will forever be grateful to CCP.