There are periods of time where everything in one’s life seems to align perfectly. In a nutshell, becoming a Siegele intern was the outwardly experience of everything I had been dreaming of since I was in middle school. I recall reading documents such as “The State of Colorado’s Biodiversity” amongst many other official CNHP documents as a young primary education student. Our natural world has always been the utmost fascinating thing to me, and it has always been my primary goal to understand it to the best of my ability and to use such knowledge to protect it. The Siegele internship with CNHP has been the ultimate prize for my passion that I possess, and I am so grateful to now have the opportunity to share what a lovely experience it has been.
At Chatfield Reservoir working with ERO, a private natural resources consulting organization, I saw firsthand the importance of teamwork and how to effectively divide tasks and chunk large projects into manageable tasks. There was far more that I learned from these projects, and there are so many people that made the journey so enjoyable that I have much gratitude for.
Much like the other interns of this program, it is very difficult for me to solely focus on only one of my projects from this summer. Every week I made new connections to wonderful people and got to apply new sets of knowledge and field skills. Although I will be primarily focusing on my last project of the season working with the Lentic AIM program, I would like to quickly share one lesson from each of my projects. My humble beginnings of this summer began with a monitoring project of the Preble’s field jumping mouse in Boulder. The principal lesson that I learned here is that not every surveying method needs to be high tech. My mentor, Rob, showed me various sampling methods that were surprisingly simple, efficient, and low-tech. My next project, which took place in Pagosa Springs, was a rare plant monitoring project for the delicate and beautiful flower, Ipomopsis polyantha. On this trip we were met with challenges from the weather, and from this we learned how one must adapt under time constraints amongst inclement weather conditions in the field. At Coffman Ranch, near Carbondale, we focused on cataloging the biodiversity of this property and conveying the significance of conservation and natural heritage to the public. As a result of our public outreach efforts, my belief that community is critical for conservation was reinforced. My time doing weed mapping in the White River National Forest served as a friendly reminder of the important role that wildfire has the capability to play within our ecosystems.
Finally, I’d like to detail my experiences and learnings from participating with the Lentic AIM program during the last week of my work this summer. AIM is an acronym for assessment, inventory, and monitoring. The program was created on behalf of a desire to have a standardized system to measure the health, impacts and long-term trends of various wetlands across the state. It is also being used to evaluate the effectiveness of different land management strategies for various land management agencies, primarily the BLM. During this week I acquired the most comprehensive list of skills and surveying methods. The AIM protocol is very vigorous and calls for an extremely detailed evaluation of many different site attributes. I assisted in so many different evaluation methods that it would be impractical to list all of them here! I am so grateful for my mentors on this project, Rachel and Evan, for working so diligently with me to ensure that I got to perform all the different evaluation methods of the AIM protocol. I learned how to use many different tools, ranging from helpful fieldwork applications such as Survey123, to advanced machinery like the YSI device, and even low-tech gadgets like the modified rulers and avalanche poles we used for our Line Point Intercept analysis. Although I may have learned much from the AIM protocol itself, many of the skills I acquired during this trip originated from outside of the protocol.
This trip was not short of exhilarating experiences. We had to traverse very steep terrain to obscure sites. Some of us fell through wetland vegetation to become submerged in water. We encountered moose and bears. We were faced with the sudden onset of fierce lightning storms. We found ourselves driving upon treacherous dirt roads. We encountered issues of site access due to private property blockages. And most difficult of all, we had to learn to persist amidst the constant swarms of mosquitoes. Despite the relentless journey, we persisted together as a team. I thoroughly enjoyed every challenge for it transformed us into a more unified force and taught us how to navigate a multitude of different obstacles that one encounters while doing fieldwork. After this trip, I feel confident in my ability to address any issue that may arise in the field.
I am eternally grateful for my experiences this summer. It was the first time in my college career where I felt like my knowledge and skills were being applied to something tangible and of great value. I feel as if I transformed into the botanist that I was always meant to be. I could not have evolved to the extent that I did without the influence of the CNHP community and partners. I feel everlasting joy knowing how wonderful the people are that perform the honorable work that CNHP does. There is a community here that I have experienced nowhere else. Being surrounded by others that share my same passions has been the utmost delight, and I hope that my story with CNHP continues long into the future. I know that as long as organizations like CNHP persist, our society may continue to evolve its identity to be one that represents and respects the intrinsic value and beauty of our natural heritage. I truly do believe that the diversity and abundance of life that surrounds us impacts us in the most wonderful way. Our natural heritage offers us an opportunity to unite under an identity that we all share, and I would like to give one last big thanks to CNHP for acting as that uniting force for me this summer.