My CLM internship with the San Bernardino National Forest in Big Bear, CA came to a close last Friday; ending as quickly as it began. Although I felt conflicted in deciding if I wanted to continue working for the Forest Service or if I wanted to move on, I know now that I made the right decision to move north to be closer to my family in Central California. That being said, I have nothing but fond memories of my year in Big Bear. It was definitely an adjustment moving from a college environment to a semi-remote area, living alone and oftentimes working alone. But quickly the staff I had the pleasure of meeting and working with became close friends, mentors, and a true community. They have made it clear that I am always welcome back, and for that I will be forever grateful.
In reflection on my time as a CLM intern, I find it hard to articulate how phenomenal of an experience it truly was. The experience I gained was so diverse and has set me up perfectly for the jobs for which I am now applying. Because of my CLM experience, I know I am a competitive candidate for most any natural resource position and feel confident in my ability to land a job in the next few months.
For those of you who have not read my past blog posts, I started as a CLM intern working for the Mountaintop district botanist (my mentor). My main responsibilities were conducting threatened, endangered, and sensitive plant surveys, entering the corresponding element occurrence data in the national Forest Service geodatabase, and making a wildflower identification book for the visitor’s center. In November, I was fortunate to be extended and although I kept the same mentor, I was mainly working for the ecological restoration program. My duties in this position were very eclectic and ranged from leading work crews and volunteers on restoration projects, creating/co-managing the ecological restoration monitoring geodatabase, drafting grant proposals and reports, and standard native plant nursery upkeep tasks. Needless to say, there are many skills that I am taking away with me that I would otherwise not have had.
Skill #1: how to record good data. I had the luck of entering past employee’ data early in the season and realized that a lot of times when multiple forms are being filled out for the same area, not every field is marked. It feels redundant to do this while at a field site because all of the information is the same. However, back in the office, after the forms have been moved and shuffled and the data recorders have moved on, the forms lack the necessary information to enter in the database. My frustration with this made me meticulous in the field, which certainly paid off when I had to enter my own data from the field season.
Skill #2: field management of crews. My supervisors allowed me to explore my managerial capabilities by trusting me in leading volunteer groups and various collaborative work crews. I now know that I am an effective leader in the field and have realized that the challenge makes me thrive.
Skill #3: GIS skillz. When I entered this position, I don’t think I could even perform basic editing tasks in ArcGIS. Many of the GIS skills I gained were through trial and error, but most came from tutorials from a phenomenal co-worker who showed me how to create and effectively manage a large geo-database. I quickly became well-versed in ArcMap, ArcCatalog, ArcPad use, making user guides for future use, and performing data check-in and check-outs for Trimble field units on a regular basis.
Skill #4: grant writing. I love to write and have always known that grant writing will play a role in my future. So, I was thrilled when my restoration program boss approached me about helping her with a couple of grant proposals and reports. I felt lucky that as a mere intern I was instrumental in obtaining $800,000 in grant money.
The above four skills are only a few of the many that I am taking with me from this position but I view them as the most marketable ones, and the ones of which I am most proud. As a next step, I plan to explore public land management, but in the private sector. I also aim to focus on exposing youth to the environment around them to instill a sense of pride, belonging, and stewardship.
I humbly thank everyone who played a part in making this internship possible for me; especially my advisor in college who told me about the program, my mentor for seeing my potential, the staff on the San Bernardino, and Krissa and the crew back at CBG. Thank you!
Oh, and one of the coolest things I saw in my last month of my internship was a larva of the yucca moth responsible for pollinating Joshua Trees! SO cool!!!!