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Hispanic-Serving Institutions Spotlight: Puerto Rico Natural Resources Career Tracks

Nifa Author
Guest Author, Communications Office
Guest Author
Jess Zimmerman, University of Puerto Rico

The Puerto Rico Natural Resources Career Track (PRNRCT) is a collaboration among four Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) in Puerto Rico and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The primary objective is to diversify the USDA Forest Service’s workforce by providing career-track opportunities for Hispanic students in critical natural resource fields to manage our natural resources.

Started in 2011, PRNCT engages students in career-building activities such as workshops, seminars, field trips, field classes and program retreats. Also, academic and professional mentorships help them gain awareness of career opportunities within the USDA, from offices, laboratories and museums to parks, forests, and marine sanctuaries.

RESEARCH
USDA NRCT Logo
USDA NRCT Logo


Students in PRNRCT partake in a variety of investigations within the natural sciences. The program helps students whose ambition is to belong in the research and investigation community and grants them access to different audiences to present their ideas. These students, with bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degrees, come from different universities all around Puerto Rico.

OUTREACH
Student pipetting in a laboratory tissue culture hood. Photo by UPR staff.
Student pipetting in a laboratory tissue culture hood. Photo by UPR staff.


Outreach allows students to investigate environmental topics, interact and get hands-on experience with younger students, and to take action to improve the environment. Environmental education is provided to children and teens in schools and communities in the urban areas of San Juan, Puerto Rico; with the mission to leave an ecological mark on their lives. PRNRCT’s vision is to create awareness that inspires others to be responsible for their actions with the environment.


EXCHANGE PROGRAMS & INTERNSHIPS
PRNCT students interacting with elementary school children in a park. Photo by UPR staff.
PRNCT students interacting with elementary school children in a park. Photo by UPR staff.


PRNRCT offers students the opportunity to study a full semester in different universities through the exchange program. NRCT has collaborated with New Mexico State University, where students can choose an independent investigation, focus, and topic to study; ranging through multiple scientific branches such as ecology, toxicology, and marine biology. We also offer our students the professional experience of working in a USDA Federal Agency. We have a collaborative agreement with FS El Yunque and other USDA agencies throughout the United States.

MOVING FORWARD
PRNCT participants wearing face masks with trees in the background. Photo by UPR staff.
PRNCT participants wearing face masks with trees in the background. Photo by UPR staff.


​Along with the rest of the world, PRNRCT has had to adapt to the current pandemic situation. While following the protocols of quarantine, the program has conducted virtual meetings to keep our program running smoothly. These meetings address climate change and different and unique ways to be more eco-friendly. Our speakers range from guests to students with the drive and the motivation to educate us and the community to improve our habits leading by example.


For more information contact: erika.concepcion1@upr.edu and follow us: https://www.instagram.com/usdanrctpr/
 
This post is part of a series highlighting the accomplishments of grantees of the Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Education Grants Program supported by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This competitive-grants program is intended to promote and strengthen the ability of Hispanic-Serving Institutions to carry out higher education programs in the food and agricultural sciences and attract outstanding students and produce graduates capable of enhancing the Nation's food and agricultural scientific and professional work force.
 
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