Wildlife Program Intern: Where the Wild Things Are

Black bear

By Theresa Mai, Wildlife Program Intern

My name is Theresa Mai, and I am the Wildlife Program Community Engagement Intern. Although I was born and raised in Portland, I am proud to be the daughter of immigrants who loved the outdoors. Ever since I was little, I can remember going on 5 a.m. adventures, whether it was fishing for salmon in the Columbia River, finding razor clams at the coast, or even screaming at snakes along its namesake, the Snake River. Unsurprisingly, these life experiences grew on me and nurtured my love for the environment.

Now, I am a rising senior at Oregon State University, majoring in public policy. During my time at OSU, I have helped remove invasive vegetation for the Oswego Lake Watershed Council, assisted in the formation of a transportation electrification coalition with Forth, and advocated for college students at the state capitol. No matter what I do, my work is centered on what it means to be an advocate on the ground and how to amplify the diverse experiences that Oregonians bring to the policy table.

As an intern with Oregon Wild, I have supported the organization’s wildlife program through community engagement efforts. That has meant everything from keeping the public up to speed on all relevant Oregon wildlife news through social media or coordinating and hosting several webcasts that focus on a particular species/topic. For example, I have connected with Oregon Wild members and supporters about the need to reinstate federal protections for gray wolves and led a webcast that highlighted the cultural importance of salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Additionally, I got to explore Mt. Hood and take part in the organization’s wildlife trail camera project in the hopes of snapping photos of animals like bears, deer, and even wolves! What a treat that was!

One observation I have made throughout my internship is the fact that I can see the close tie between Oregon Wild’s history and my current work. For example, back in July, I had the opportunity to attend the organization’s annual staff retreat. As one can imagine, initially all of the conversations were about work, but soon, we started to reminisce about the stories and life experiences that got us to where we are now. Whether we were discussing the history of the yule tree, chatting around a comfy campfire, or checking on a missing Jonathan with an IPA (don’t worry, we found him!), it made me appreciate even more the opportunity to protect our state’s lands, waters, and wildlife. 

Not only did I soak in Oregon Wild’s lore, but I also saw how advocates can take action during the most difficult of times. For instance, on this one particular day, I was at a coalition meeting for the Oregon Wildlife Coalition when I noticed something alarming in my inbox: it was the news that ODFW had just killed wolf pups. Though that news was definitely disheartening, what was impressive was watching all the different wildlife advocates spring into action -- quickly issuing a press release, contacting the Governor’s office, posting on social media, etc. -- in what felt like a matter of minutes. It was incredible to watch everyone come together so quickly to speak up for those pups and wildlife as a whole. 

As my internship comes to a close, I want to thank everyone at Oregon Wild for this wonderful opportunity. I truly see them all as mentors in this field, and their good work is a reminder of how crucial it is to take the wheel when no one else does. Finally, I want to thank fellow intern John Seng for saving my life (from a scary, little stream) and Danielle Moser for being the best boss anyone could ask for. 

Until we meet again, onwards and upwards!