Student Spotlight: Meet our new intern Alli Dickey

Monday, September 11, 2017
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Like many college students, I stumbled upon my dreams clumsily and after many changes of heart. It wasn’t until I was going into my junior year and I stood in South Africa, feet from a herd of rhino that I realized I knew what I wanted to do.

I started at the University of Nebraska as a Fisheries and Wildlife major with the goal of doing research on animal behavior. Freshman year, I had many environmental classes which all seemed to have the same message: The earth is in a pretty bad place right now and we need big ideas to save it. I was overwhelmed. I thought I could learn cool facts about animals and then, by some magic, save every species. It wasn’t until my sophomore year when I was in an environmental communications class that I had my epiphany. I loved learning about wildlife and science, but I loved writing about it more. I could inform and advocate through my writing. With my only experience being English classes, I added a major in Journalism, signed up for the Daily Nebraskan and began looking for internships.

Fast forward six months and I’m in Karoo National Park in South Africa, standing as still as possible because a herd of rhinos just walked into my backyard. It’s my third week as an environmental journalism intern at Africa Media and I’ve already filled a blog with writing on conservation, the environment, and wildlife. I realize this is what I want to do with my life, even as I hold my breath so I don’t get trampled by rhinos.

My month in Africa for my internship was one of the most fun and growing experience I’ve had. I went shark cage diving with Great Whites. I held an elephant trunk and watched humpback whales breach. I walked alongside a gibbon and marveled at a pack of lions. But it wasn’t all funand games. I sometimes felt like I was in a writing boot camp that stretched me to my limits but vastly improved my skills.

I learned the harsh truths of conservation through my writing. The week prior to me arriving, a great white had washed ashore with three hooks in its stomach. The researchers I interviewed believed that shark had been illegally fished two separate times for sport and then released at the last minute. They concluded that the stress of the incidents killed the otherwise healthy animal.

The loss of biodiversity is a major environmental problem and the one I’m most passionate about. I went to South Africa to see the wildlife I had read about and yearned to protect. I learned while abroad that although South Africa is rich with wildlife, it’s losing its biodiversity quickly. Every year, private game reserves spend millions out of owners’ pockets to fight white rhino poaching. On one safari, I interviewed an anti-poaching unit who showed me the carcasses of a mother and son who were poached for their horns two years prior. This image will haunt me forever and continue to remind me of what I’m fighting for and what’s at stake.

Although I’ve dreamed of writing about the environmental and conservation, I never imagined it would be as difficult, devastating, and ultimately rewarding as it was in my time in South Africa. I am so excited to continue writing about the environment and sustainability with my position here at the UNL Office of Sustainability. Thank you for reading and believing that what we do to preserve our planet for future generations is important at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.