The following is a guest blog post by Austin Rosen, a student intern with CNHP in the Siegele Conservation Science Internship program:
Being the sole botany geek of this year’s CNHP interns, and an avid whitewater kayaker, I found my two weeks of doing wetland vegetation surveys in Lake County, which is the headwaters of the Arkansas river, to be the most rewarding experience among the wide variety of fieldwork I did all summer. Some weeks were spent driving around the prairie monitoring prairie dog colonies, others pounding in wells to monitor soil moisture content, and even others monitoring endemic rare plants with only a couple of known populations in the state. However, after just one day of working with botanist Denise Culver, hiking to the alpine, finding fens, and documenting all of the vegetation we came across, I knew that this trip was going to be one for the books.
Each day we would wake up, pound several mugs of coffee, and pore over maps as we discussed which areas we were going to visit that day. Sometimes there would be an existing Element Occurrence Record (EOR) for a rare plant or plant community which we wanted to visit and update, and other times we would visit first order streams, alpine and subalpine lakes, ponds, and fens. At each location we would document all the plant species in the immediate area, as well as give the area a ranking based on a number of important characteristics such as biodiversity, disturbance, and potential threats to the landscape. Each destination provided not only a breathtaking view, but often an entirely new set of plants to become familiar with in an entirely new type of wetland environment. I learned all about the importance of fens, the effectiveness of beavers in creating rich wetland areas, and the difficulties faced while attempting to protecting wetland areas in a world full of increasing human consumption and development. I am so grateful to have been part of the Siege Internship program, as it allowed me to experience a wide variety of fieldwork, work alongside professional biologists, and be part of a passionate community dedicated to biodiversity conservation.