Ekaterina Khadonova '22Ekaterina Khadonova '22Every College of the Atlantic student completes an eight- or 11-week internship in order to meet COA’s graduation requirements. For Ekaterina Khadonova ’21, a Davis United World Colleges scholar from St. Petersburg, Russia, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas checked all the boxes. Khadanova worked as a wildlife biology intern at Cache River, waking up with the dawn and finding community among conservationists and environmental scientists. Khadonova was one of two women working at the refuge and became the first international student to intern there. 

What inspired you to intern at the Cache River Wildlife Refuge?

“Conservation, to me, is the most human ecological job out there. I wanted to pursue my passion for conservation while simultaneously trying out an environment completely different than COA. Working with people with such The 68,993-acre Cache River Wildlife Refuge is one of the Ramsar wetlands of international import...The 68,993-acre Cache River Wildlife Refuge is one of the Ramsar wetlands of international importance under the 1971 Ramsar Convention.different beliefs and backgrounds brings you together and builds respect for each other’s way of living.”

What were your duties and responsibilities/tasks?

“I held the position as a wildlife biologist intern, among three other interns volunteering at the Refuge from June to August. For two months, our group would wake up at 5 a.m. and drive to the Refuge together for our 7 a.m. shifts, and we all loved it.

“I worked every day in the field, usually completing vegetation monitoring of the land, installing wildlife cameras, ARC GIS (mapping land and bodies of water), frog surveys, deer jaw analyses, and rocket netting (a trap method where nets gets thrown over the ducks, which then can be picked up, banded, and released). The vegetation monitoring was completed to predict the population of other animals in the area. We even blew up beaver dams to create better water flow, which was an extremely intense and exciting process. We also completed bat surveys from 11 p.m. to midnight. The bat survey research is used for the development of acoustic equipment.”

What experience did you gain from the internship?

“It was a very nice feeling being a part of a community; especially one that had only three interns working there. Working with such different people in a new environment, I found that was the most valuable to me because it was such a big culture shock; from growing up in a city of six million in Russia to rural Arkansas.”

What are your plans for after graduation?

“I want to continue a career in conservation and wildlife biology. I wouldn’t hesitate to volunteer at Cache River Wildlife again. It was such a great experience.”