My Summer as a Siegele Conservation Science Intern 2023
For my summer as a Siegele intern, I was assigned to work with the Forest Service on the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and the Pawnee National Grassland (ARP). This summer was full of lots of fun adventures, I learned lots of new skills, and I also made many incredible connections along the way. I learned about archaeology, botany, fisheries, and wildlife field work, as well as many other miscellaneous field skills.
Training – Rifle Ranch
During the first few weeks of the internship, we did lots of training, but the most exciting part of training was when we spent a week in Rifle, CO. While we were in Rifle, we focused on learning basic skills that would be valuable for the field, and we also started to form friendships with one another. I particularly was interested in learning about conservation easements when we spoke to the local land trusts. We also had the opportunity to visit Rifle Falls and explore some of the natural spaces in the area. It was a fun week full of birds, bats, plants, water, friends, and more!
For the remainder of the internship, I worked with the Forest Service on whatever project they needed assistance on. Sometimes, we worked on projects for more extended periods of time (such as prairie dog colony mapping for two weeks), while other times we did single days in each discipline and switched off every day. So, it is simplest to divide the things that I did during the internship into categories by discipline.
We joined the botany crew for a handful of days during the internship. While with the botany crew, we typically hiked areas in the forest looking for rare plants. While we hiked around, the crew was super excited to share their love of plants with us, and I significantly improved my plant identification skills! We also became quite good at the intuitive controlled transects that allowed us to cover a lot of ground relatively quickly. Due to all of the fun that I had on botany days, I was inspired to start my own pressed plant collection (full of widely distributed species, of course!).
The Forest Service Heritage crew on the ARP works to monitor archeological presence (human presence older than 50 years) on the forest and grassland. We were able to join this crew for a couple of days to learn about their methods, find very interesting historical artifacts, and even search for bones from extinct animals.
We helped with two main wildlife projects during the internship. One project involved two full weeks of prairie dog colony mapping, and another project included two bird surveys. The prairie dog colony mapping was on the Pawnee National Grassland and was much more challenging than I had anticipated, but I learned a lot! The bird surveys included searching for the presence of northern goshawks and flammulated owls. Wildlife ended up being the discipline that interacted with their subject the least, due to the highly mobile nature of wildlife and the threats facing these species.
Images 9-11: Author photos from the Pawnee National Grassland during prairie dog colony mapping.
One of my favorite disciplines this summer was fisheries. I enjoyed exploring the rivers, catching and processing fish, surveying macroinvertebrates, and catching boreal toads! In general, it was very fun, but it also involved some of the most difficult hikes I have ever done. These hikes made me much stronger, and I am so grateful that I was able to push through! I also had lots of fun learning from the fish biologist, and I am grateful for her insight on biology, careers, and education!
Overall, I learned a lot of new field skills and made many valuable connections that will be relevant in my career. I also got to have lots of fun outside! Beyond field skills, I learned how to push myself to be stronger both physically and mentally, which is already one of my greatest takeaways in everyday life. I am so grateful for this experience and for the things I learned along the way!