My name is River Blessing and I am a fourth-year Ecosystem Science and Sustainability major
at Colorado State University. I was lucky enough to be a Siegele Intern this summer with the
Colorado Natural Heritage Program. The experiences I had this summer while taking part in this
internship were amazing. I never could have imagined how much I would learn and how much
fun I would have. I learned about so many things such as botany, wetlands, and conservation
The mentors who participated in this internship were really the heroes of it all. They were the
ones taking us out on their trips, teaching us about their projects and teaching us all the skills
they have gained from working in conservation for years. I had such a wide variety of mentors
from so many organizations such as Colorado Parks and Wildlife, ERO Resources, and the US
Forest Service. Although they were all different, one thing they had in common was love for
conservation and the want to teach the upcoming students in the field. I felt welcomed every
single moment I was with these people and cannot thank them enough.
This was my first field season and it was a very challenging but gratifying summer. I have hiked
and camped my whole life but this is a whole different beast. There were stretches of hitches
that I was wet for days straight and my tent didn’t keep water out very well. I was hailed on,
exhausted by long hikes and the sun glaring down on me, and my boots gave up on me at one
point. But I enjoyed every moment of it because I got the chance to be outside all summer doing
the work I love.
I have always known that I wanted to work in the conservation field and fight to protect our
ecosystems. This internship allowed me to dip my toe into the work that I envision myself doing
for the rest of my life. I was able to apply all the concepts I have been learning in school about
these ecosystems, our world, and how we can protect it. I was able to see the vast biodiversity
that Colorado and parts of Wyoming have to offer. It has made me more passionate about
conservation after seeing these rare plants and animals in the wild.
Lastly, before this I was somewhat naïve about conservation and didn’t take into consideration
the private side of it. I always thought about conservation as being carried out by public entities
but I learned that the public and private sector have to work in conjunction with each other to
tackle climate change and its consequences. I had never thought about the relationships that
must be formed between private landowners and organizations that focus on conservation. This
is essential because the majority of land in the US and around the world is privately owned.
Ignoring this fact would cause the missing of so much potential conservation.
Overall, I cannot stress how invaluable this internship is. I would say this is maybe my favorite
summer ever and it is in large part to this internship. I am glad I got to meet so many
professionals in the conservation field and learn from them. I am also glad that I got to know
other people my age that are just as passionate about conservation as I am and it gives me
hope for the future. Anyone who asks me about this internship from now on will get an earful
about how great it is and if they are a student I will insist that they look into applying.