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A Summer with Melissa and Maya

Two EXPO interns share their impressions of a summer job at NHM.

Melissa Nuñez and Maya Montelongo standing in the Nature Gardens

This summer, our Community Science Program had two wonderful high school interns, Maya Montelongo and Melissa Nuñez, who came to us through the EXPO Summer Youth Job Corps. Here they share some of their experiences working at the Natural History Museum:

Melissa says:

"This summer, between my junior to senior years of high school, I was hired as an intern through the EXPO Summer Youth Job Corps program to assist in bat research, community science, and social media at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Having the opportunity to be part of the Community Science Program has been an amazing experience for me. I was never really interested in nature, even though all my life I’ve been surrounded by millions of specimens that I never really paid close attention to. Because of the people in the Community Science Program, my perspective on nature has changed. Learning about squirrels and bats with Miguel and Amy, to Richard and Maiz encouraging Maya, the other summer intern, and me to go outside and use iNaturalist, has motivated me to become interested in nature.

Maya, Melissa, and Amy look at insects on a bush
Amy Jaecker-Jones shows Maya and Melissa how to look for praying mantis egg cases in the Nature Gardens
photo: Maiz Connolly

"I’ve learned a lot of extraordinary information such as that P-22, a full grown mountain lion, is actually living in Griffith Park. Now I like to share P-22’s story to friends who ask me what I've learned at the Natural History Museum, and they’re always shocked to learn that a puma is living not far away from their home. I never thought I’d view myself as a person who loves and appreciates nature, and for that reason I’m very thankful for this opportunity because now I can name different species every time I go out, share information or my new knowledge about nature with my family and friends, or cherish the beauty in nature, and it’s all thanks to the people at the Community Science Program."

Maya holds a box with examples of local bats so elementary students can see them.
Maya displaying local bat specimens during a presentation for Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation, ESTEAM campers.
photo: Melissa Nuñez

Maya adds:

"Before working here at the Natural History Museum I wasn't that interested in nature and the animals that lived in L.A. With this internship I feel more connected to, and have a greater interest in nature. This summer has been memorable and is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to kick off my senior year. One of my favorite memories that I have is going outside and taking pictures of the wildlife here in the nature gardens. It was so interesting to see the hummingbirds and bees that I wouldn't normally see if I weren't looking closely. And I think that that's what my supervisors were trying to teach us, to look closely at the area around us because we never know what we may find. Our supervisors arranged tours with the different departments here at the museum. It was exciting to see and experience the work that other scientists are doing here. You think, when you visit the Natural History Museum that there’s only dinosaurs, but in reality there is so much more. I'm grateful for this opportunity at the museum. The work that my supervisors do inspires me to work more with the community and help to bring more resources to them."

Thank you, Maya and Melissa for all of your hard work this summer!