What an incredible summer I have had interning at the Colorado Natural Heritage Program. I am so grateful to have been a part of the Siegele Conservation Internship this summer and have taken away so much from this experience. Before this internship I had no prior experience in any type of field work, but knew this could be an amazing opportunity to explore something new, go out of my comfort zone, and gain hands on experience with field work in the outdoors.
This internship has also been a great way for me to apply what I have learned throughout my time at Colorado State University. I am entering my final year in earning my degree in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources within the Warner College of Natural Resources (WCNR). My courses so far have centralized on conservation, education, sociology, as well as ecology, and throughout this internship I was able to apply many these concepts to the work I did in the field.
I was able to work on a variety of field project in which I learned how to identify plants, follow field protocols, collaborate as a team, and further extend my knowledge about the importance of field work to our environment. One of the first trips I participated on was at Phantom Canyon, which is conserved land owned by the Nature Conservancy. The purpose of this trip was to mentor a group of honors high school students who may or may not have had previous experience or access to mountainous areas, and to take them to this beautiful location where we hiked around and immersed ourselves in nature. We hiked down into this canyon and let the students look, feel, and experience nature. This was one of my favorite trips as I was able to teach some of the students about different things related to the physical environment, the important role of the nature conservancy, as well as assist in connecting them further to nature by having fun!
The next trip I had was to Fishers Peak State Park in Trinidad, Colorado, where I got to work with Pam Smith, who is one of CNHP’s botanists. For this project CNHP was hired to help search and locate any rare plant species in certain areas of the park that are being looked at for development. I joined Pam in continuing this research and was there to learn and assist in looking for these rare plant species as well help identify any plants we came across and didn’t know. This experience allowed me to learn about many different plants that are native to Colorado, as well as how to find and identify plant species. Working with Pam was such an incredible experience and opportunity, and I learned a lot from this trip.
I then joined one of CNHP’s Colorado wetland crews for the next few weeks going to different Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sites that may potentially be a wetland and carrying out Assessment Inventory and Monitoring (AIM) protocol to determine if the sites were a wetland or not. This was one of my favorite parts of this internship since I learned so much about wetland field work, gained a variety of applicable skills, and got to spend weeks in the outdoors!
Going into this I did not know a lot about wetlands, or how much data it needed to determine if something was or wasn’t considered a wetland. I learned so much about each important component from the water pH to the local plants to the soil chemistry. It was amazing to learn and see how dynamic wetlands are, as well as how many components define and make a resilient wetland. While on these hitches we would camp for five nights and try to get one site done every day. We visited some of the most spectacular and beautiful places in Colorado and worked as a team to help support one another and complete our work to a high-quality standard.
Overall, this internship has changed my life in some of the best ways possible, and it has opened a variety of opportunities and career paths for me to follow. I am grateful to everyone who made me feel so welcomed and appreciated and am thankful to have learned so much throughout my time here this summer. Thank you so much CNHP for giving me this wonderful opportunity to learn and grow!