What Makes Me Texan By Nature: Estela Lopez

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  1. What Makes Me Texan By Nature – Estela Lopez

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    Rio Grande River
    Exit to the Rio Grande Valley

    I never knew the impact of growing up in the Rio Grande Valley had on me until I moved away for college. had always heard the saying “you know you’re almost in the valley when you take the exit in Corpus”, but I wouldn’t understand the emotional meaning of it until I drove home for the first time and took the exit myself.

    Ring Day 2022

    I was born and raised by two of the most hard working individuals I know, Rosa Maria Lopez and Fernando Lopez, in the not so little city of McAllen,Texas. I never knew the sacrifice my parents made for me until I started sharing my story in college. My mother was born in Mexico and courageously came to the United States with a dream and a prayer. She has been the greatest role model in my life and has always encouraged of all of my dreams. My m​​other and father did not have the opportunity to attend college, and always made it a goal of theirs to have their only child attend college. They sacrificed continuing their education to provide for their family, and now that I have the ability to attend college and pursue a higher education, I dedicate everything I do for them.

    Bougainvillea Tree
    Memories in Mexico

    Growing up in the Rio Grande Valley has been a blessing. It has given me the ability to appreciate the beauty it holds even though the weather is unbearable at times. The proximity to the border and the Gulf of Mexico blesses us with an abundance of biological diversity. The true beauty of the RGV is in the people and the culture. The Tex-Mex culture has always been a defining and influential part of my life. Most of my childhood was spent traveling to Mexico to visit my mother’s side of the family. My greatest childhood memories include spending time at the ranch in Mexico with my family and eating all the delicious food I could possibly consume prepared by the locals in my grandparent’s hometown. My favorite thing to do was ride around with my grandpa in his old truck listening to corridos and looking at all the cattle and the surrounding vegetation. One of the most beautiful aspects of the ranch is a bougainvillea tree that my great-great grandfather planted for his wife, Rosa Ramirez, who I get my middle name from. This tree has survived droughts, freezes, and the hardships that ranching families face. It shows the true power and perseverance that nature has. This tree has always been so symbolic in my family because if this tree can survive anything, so can we.

     

    Antelope Canyon

    Traveling and discovering the beauty of nature is one of my favorite things to do. One of my favorite quotes comes from John Muir, “Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees”, and I couldn’t agree more. Traveling with my family across the U.S. has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. Pictures cannot describe the awe that encompasses an individual when you see first hand the beauty that nature graces us with.

    Antelope Canyon

    My time at Texas A&M University has afforded me the ability to learn more about the great state of Texas. Throughout my undergraduate and graduate education, so many professors have highlighted the diversity that Texas has. Through case studies and group discussions, it’s quite evident the pride that we all hold to be Texan. Nothing gives me greater joy than to tell my story and what it means to me to be from Texas. Walking into a room knowing that growing up in Texas has given me the strength, courage, and ability to conquer anything I set my mind to, empowers me to overcome any obstacle in my way. This is what makes me proud to be Texan by Nature.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  2. What Makes Me Texan by Nature – Sydney Gass

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    By Sydney Gass, Texan by Nature Social Media and Marketing Intern

     

    I was born in Baltimore, Maryland but spent most of my formative years on the Florida coast, searching for shells in the sand, spotting animals in the sea. My earliest memories in nature were the years my family spent in Turks and Caicos Islands, where my afternoons were filled with crystal blue waters and white sands. 

    After a few more moves, we landed in the greater Houston area when I was eight years old – my education and childhood continued to be formed by the wildlife that inhabited the land we lived on. Being homeschooled allowed so many moments to turn into science lessons, from catching snakes to watching deer feed, my love of wildlife was something that came naturally. 

    We spent five years in Texas when my family ended up in Vancouver, British Columbia, an incredibly beautiful city where the mountains and ocean literally meet. My teenage years brought me hiking, skiing, working as a naturalist on whale-watching boats, and spending as much time in nature as possible. I volunteered with the Canadian Wildlife Federation as a youth ambassador and at the Vancouver Aquarium’s marine mammal rescue center, caring for injured and orphaned marine mammals. 

    I started my undergraduate education in forestry at the University of British Columbia. But, after one conservation course, it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the field. I shifted degrees and received my Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Management. I was able to take an interdisciplinary approach to my degree, with courses in business, economics, ecology, conservation, psychology, and visual arts. I worked with master’s students studying the impact of urban development and agriculture on the critical habitat of endangered salmon species. I also studied the human impact on black bears within various communities and worked with the government to better educate tourists.

    About halfway through my degree, my love of photography morphed with science into a minor in communications and marketing. I was enthralled with sharing the beauty of our world and the importance of protecting it by taking science-heavy materials and turning it into something tangible, exciting and inspiring. I spent the past year working with Oceana Canada on their social media team. 

    I’ve found myself back in Texas after eleven years away and I’m constantly reminded of the beauty of such unique landscapes. This spring was one of the first times I’d seen Texas wildflowers across the hill country and I couldn’t catch my breath, it was unlike anything I’d seen before. Although I’m not born and raised in this incredible state, I don’t believe I truly am “from” one particular place. The stunning topography, incredible gulf coast, diverse wildlife, and endless opportunities for conservation make me proud to be Texan by Nature. 

  3. What Makes Me Texan by Nature – Madeleine Kaleta

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    I grew up nestled amongst the trees in a valley between the mountain in a small town in upstate New York. My family’s history runs deep in this state, with the entire family residing in one of three cities. So, I stayed and followed my interests in animals and science and received a Bachelor’s in Zoology with a minor in bio-cultural anthropology at SUNY Oswego. Throughout my studies, I quickly found my love for wildlife conservation in faraway internships with a passion to preserve all aspects of the land, and I knew I had to explore more of our natural world. 

     

    The day after graduating, I loaded my life into my car and took off for my first official job in wildlife conservation. I traveled the country, only staying a few months at each temporary job, and one of those places was West Texas. No one in my family was surprised to see me end up in this beautiful and wild state. This was the first place in my journey where I was constantly amazed by the novelty and landscape as I drove across the state. It was nothing like home, but working on private ranches all across west Texas, I quickly appreciated the diversity. From the bogs and dense trees of East Texas, to the canyons and rolling plains, the birds of the Rio Grande, and all the amazing people and cultures I have encountered along the way.  

    While that job soon ended, I ultimately returned a few years later to begin my current master’s degree in biology with a focus in avian ecology research at UNT. While birds are a huge focus in my passion, I quickly realized the ecological complexities of the world. I found so much value in preserving other aspects such as land and water resources, but also engaging with local communities. A huge takeaway I learned in my bio-cultural anthropology background, was the best way to conserve nature, was to work with and help the local community. I feel this is the cornerstone to all great conservation successes across the world.  

    While I continue my current degree, my perspective and passion for combining conservation and community has only further solidified. Texan by Nature spoke strongly to me as an organization. Their contributions not only to the conservation of Texas natural resources, but also to aiding businesses and local community programs couldn’t have been a more perfect fit. I am excited to join them in our endeavors to catalyze and conserve so many meaningful projects and projects to protect this state. I may not have grown up a Texan, but I chose it. Contributing to the prosperity of the people and land of Texas is what makes me Texan by Nature. 

     

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