I cannot wrap my head around the fact that only 8 months ago, sitting in the concrete jungle of Quito, Ecuador, I had my first interview for the CLM internship and was referred to work with the National Park Service in Wrangell-St. Elias NP, AK. Fast forward to late October, I find myself in Anchorage, snowboard in hand, anxiously waiting for snow to fall in the mountains. In the time interval between these two moments, my CLM internship both brought me to Alaska and provided me with professional skills important to my developing career. My personal “internship” was unlike any of the past, and certain job responsibilities forced us to grow professionally and meet expectations within the resource department of a government agency.
Skills I developed during this season will, with certainty, carry-over to future employment in natural resource management.
- Experience with ArcMap
- Data collection and processing with Trimble units and Pathfinder Office
- Writing professional reports
- Public outreach and an understanding of its importance to government work
- Backcountry logistics, which is especially valuable to fieldwork in Alaska
- Further experience in identification of plant species using keys, particularly grasses
- Various applications of Microsoft Office products
Of equal importance to the skills above, which transfer well to paper, are the planning and preparation experience one can only acquire with trial and error. Some invaluable learning experiences of the summer are listed below.
- Proper field preparation and checklists are crucial and never to be underestimated. There is no “Oh, we forgot THAT?! Let us skip back to the office and grab it!” after being dropped off via bushplane in the Alaskan backcountry.
- Trip reports are very helpful for future reference and should always be completed if time allows.
- Always be ready for the worst possible situation, and understand that forces out of your control will occasionally crush your plans, although every conceivable precaution has been taken.
- Humility is important for getting over mistakes, and having healthy, happy work relationships with your coworkers.
Among the skills acquired/honed and lessons learned, this season was rich with work-facilitated experiences to be appreciated for the rest of my life.
- Laying eyes upon Iceberg Lake of the Tana Glacier was a breathtaking moment, and promptly reminded us of how lucky we are to work in a field with exposure to such beautiful, wild places.
- Surfing for the first time in Yakatat, Alaska (believe it or not, a 6/5 mm hooded wetsuit is a bit too warm for the Gulf of Alaska during summer).
- Organizing and weighing seed collected during the 2016 season.
- Writing the 2016 summary report with the my fellow CLM intern, Natalie.
- Building cartographic skills while developing maps to help describe our field season.
- Pressing, mounting, and developing herbarium labels for over 60 aquatic plant specimen.
Above is a sample of my experience as a CLM intern in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska. Each individual intern likely received an overlapping, but occasionally different and equally beneficial wealth of skills and personal lessons. I am a firm believer in this program and feel fortunate CBG provides young botanists and conservationists with such incredibly diverse and beneficial internships. Let us hope that environmental policy continues to swing in our favor, increasing permanent employment opportunities to meet our skilled pool of qualified field biologists and technicians.