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Olivia Cason ’18 spends two days a week putting her Environmental Science and Policy major into practice as an intern at Wild Basin Creative Research Center, a 227-acre preserve on the west side of Austin that’s managed by St. Edward’s. There, she’s doing research for an app to help visitors identify the plants they see. She also sets up game cameras and reviews footage for the Austin Wildlife Watch, part of a national project that monitors how animals are affected by urban encroachment.

In spare moments, she explores the trails at Wild Basin that take her to the overlook, a breathtaking view of a valley full of ashe junipers and oaks, or to the seasonal waterfall on Bee Creek. Although the preserve is surrounded by the city, the waterfall is a quiet spot. “You can hear every drop of water and listen to the birds that live in the trees above,” she says. “So many species live right there by the water, and once you’re down there you can hear it all.”

Cason’s internship at Wild Basin is her fourth experience in her field. She’s worked for the Sustainable Food Center, a nonprofit that improves people’s access to nutritious, affordable food. She’s also led an after-school gardening program at an elementary school and worked at Green Gate Farms, just east of Austin, where she registered kids for farm camp, harvested vegetables and fed pigs and goats.

These jobs have expanded Cason’s skills and professional connections — and they’ve confirmed she’s on the right career path.

“Being in nature — whether at the farm, or with kids in the gardens, or at Wild Basin — I’m able to reflect on what’s important to me and translate that into action,” she says. “I’m able to hone in on what my purpose is going to be in this world.”