YOUTH TALK: REACHING OUT TO NATURE

By NismaHamid/@NismaHamid

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Not unlike many of my student counterparts, I have been through many instances of total fickleness when it comes to deciding what my life would be like after high school. I have changed my mind on more occasions than I can count on things like “what I want to be when I grow up,”. I’ve been doing a lot of exploring, researching, and dreaming about various career choices before finally finding my ‘calling’: Politics and International Law. But there’s always been my not-all-that-gone interest in Zoology…

I have always been obsessed with animals – even becoming a vegetarian for a year because I did not want to eat any “meat” that may it be from anything from aquatic life to desert dwelling critter. This interest manifested itself in my decision to apply for a volunteer job at the Environmental Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD). After waiting many months, during which time my passion shifted even though my interest lingered, I was able to step into the assignment.

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My first day was by far the least eventful, aside from meeting all the wonderful people who work so hard to preserve the greenery and the wildlife diversity that exists in the UAE. I arrived at 8:30am sharp and was introduced to all the people I would work under in the Terrestrial & Marine Biodiversity Division. After that, the “fun” bit began: filing. The strange thing is that I genuinely enjoy filing! Wver since my volunteer job at the Make-A-Wish-Foundation last summer, maybe it’s genetic (my mother is a neat freak) or because of my perfectionism, I found the organization and process of it quite soothing. It also gave me insight on the real workings of ‘work’.

Every other day during my internship I would go on a trip to the field with a wildlife specialist. The first trip was to the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve. There, I helped with a terrestrial mammal survey, in which we checked on traps previously set, examined the desert gerbils and scorpions for their gender and measurements, and then set them back into the wild. I even saw a whole flock of flamingos nesting! The other field trips were to the Mangrove National Park, where we took a not-open-to-the-public-yet boat tour and stopped people from violating park regulations. We also went to an aquaponic farm where we filled out a safety and ethical conduct questionnaire, the Free Port were we observed and surveyed at a fish auction, and Jebel Hafeet where we conducted a survey of the birdlife there. I even got to feed some vultures!

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The experience not only taught me the ins and outs of office life, giving me valuable work experience, but also that there are so many people who don’t know about wildlife in the UAE. We assume that just because the country is located in a desert that nature is limited when in fact all I’ve learned will challenge that popular belief. For instance, did you know that the UAE is home to the world’s second largest dugong population? Or that the UAE is a breeding ground to around 100 species of birds? I didn’t either, until my internship. My time there really opened my eyes to the impressive feats that the agency was able to accomplish and the natural beauty of Abu Dhabi emirate that it was able to preserve. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to be a part of such an incredible organization.

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