Robin Mendoza started mapping the Clark County Wetlands Park as an obligation — her geographic-information systems class professor assigned it as part her B.A. in environmental science at UNLV. But she finished it as an enjoyable, if slightly OCD, occupation — the wetlands staff was so impressed with her work that the county hired her as a summer intern.
“When we were given this project, I didn’t even know we had the Wetlands Park,” says Mendoza, who moved here from San Diego when she was 10. “It confirmed my love for environmental science and why I decided to go into this field in the first place.”
In the fall of 2013, at 18 years old, Mendoza and fellow students Shirley Lin and Ray Danser started the laborious data-collection process. With a GPS device in hand, they would pinpoint their location, save it in the device, take notes in a separate field book, walk a couple steps and do it all over again. They repeated the process thousands of times — until they had enough dots to connect into a map.
“The three of us collaborated very well with the staff at the Wetlands Park, and we were having fun collecting the data,” Mendoza says.
Over time, she grew attached to the place (Desert Companion is, too; we picked it for our 2015 Best of the City). In summer 2014, Mendoza got an internship to complete the map, which is so accurate that the county now uses it as its official park map. She also began an independent study with a professor to develop a web-based applications that visitors can use to interact with the park. She says park management has changed since the first time she pitched her app, but she plans to do it again in hopes of getting the app adopted.
Now a graduate student in public administration, Mendoza believes she’s found her passion: “I have a critical eye when it comes to looking at park maps now. I see places where they could use fine-tuning, and I realize this is definitely what I want to do for my career.”