Join us in welcoming our new staff member Alenka Cardenas, BCWK’s Wetland Outreach Coordinator
What is the last waterbody that you visited?
The last waterbody I visited was Galveston Bay, located near Houston. Ever since I was a kid, it’s been a favorite spot of mine, especially the memories of fishing on the pier alongside my grandparents. During my recent visit, I had the chance to ride my bike along the seawall and enjoy a beautiful sunset. I often venture to Bolivar Peninsula for bird watching, and on a lucky day, I might spot dolphins during the ferry ride. And no visit is complete without treating myself to some fried shrimp from the local restaurants.
Tell us about your background.
My fascination with wetlands can be traced back to a high school field trip to Galveston. During this visit, we embarked on a boat tour led by a wildlife conservation expert. She debunked many misconceptions about the Gulf and introduced us to the rich biodiversity of the Bay. This experience left an indelible mark on me.
In college, I channeled this passion into a focus on ecology and conservation. This gave me a comprehensive insight into the diverse ecological systems within watersheds, and a deeper appreciation for the local flora and fauna. Post-graduation, I furthered my education with a master’s degree in policy, honing my analytical skills.
For the past two years, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to educate students about the intricate biological processes that shape their environment, which continued fueling my enthusiasm for wildlife and ecology. Today, as the Community Outreach Coordinator at Bayoucity Waterkeeper, I’m in a unique position to harness all of the things I have learned over the years. My role allows me to blend past experiences and knowledge to champion wetlands education and foster a deeper community engagement.
What part of your job do you think you will nerd out about?
What I genuinely nerd out about in my role is unveiling the hidden wonders of local ecosystems to the community. Did you know that wetlands harbor 40% of the world’s biodiversity? Throughout my career as a biologist, I’ve delved into the unique species—from fish to birds—that thrive in these environments. Beyond their biodiversity, wetlands play a crucial role in carbon storage, serving as a frontline against climate change. Yet, many are unaware of the wetland treasures in their very own backyards. As a former teacher, I’ve had the rewarding experience of introducing students to the organisms living right in their communities. For me, fostering this appreciation and building a deep connection between communities and their wetlands is the key to ensuring their preservation for generations to come.
How do you think your work as the Wetland Outreach Coordinator will impact our community?
I’m deeply passionate about wetlands and their rich biodiversity. As the Wetland Outreach Coordinator, my goal is to ignite that same passion within our community, emphasizing the importance of conserving these vital ecosystems. It’s one thing to educate people about the environment; it’s another to inspire them to actively protect it. While education is fundamental, it doesn’t always translate to action. I aim to bridge that gap. I want to empower our community members, equipping them with the knowledge and tools they need to take tangible steps in safeguarding our wetlands. In essence, I aspire to move people from passive understanding to active conservation, placing them at the forefront of wetland protection.
Why is Houston special?
Houston stands out for many reasons, but its essence lies in its people. As the most diverse city in the nation, Houston has a tapestry of unique backgrounds and cultural histories that seamlessly intertwine, shaping its vibrant communities. What’s truly inspiring is watching individuals from varied backgrounds collaborate and share their rich experiences. These communities, teeming with cultural heritage and collaborative spirit, drive my passion for my position, as I get to play a role in preserving and furthering their progress.