Thanks to ongoing support from the National Forest Foundation and Vail Resorts’ Ski Conservation Fund, 12 high school students will participate in the fourth summer of the Walking Mountains Science Center’s Natural Resource Internship in 2015. The interns will work under the supervision of Matt Grove, fisheries biologist on the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District of the White River National Forest, to monitor stream and wetland health. The interns will search for endangered boreal toads to identify sites where they are still breeding in the area, but most of the students’ work is focused on monitoring stream health.
The interns will be trained in USFS stream data collection protocols that help gauge the health of waterways. They will measure stream substrates, stream gradients, assess woody debris, pools and riffles that provide important trout habitat, and collect samples of aquatic macroinvertebrates.
In addition to providing valuable information to the US Forest Service the interns gain experience in field ecology and exposure to careers in natural resource management. The high school students will also earn 4 environmental science credits from Colorado Mountain College, giving them a chance to connect their observations in nature to broader concepts in ecology.
The internship demands a lot of time and energy from its participants. In addition to working full-time the interns have reading assignments, essays, homework, and tests. In spite of the commitment the students who participate appreciate the value of their work to themselves and to the community. Kyle Jordan, an intern from the summer of 2014, said, “This internship helped me gain important skills in field research to prepare me for future jobs. I’m excited for a new adventure each and every day. It truly made my summer memorable.”
True to the model of programming offered by Walking Mountains Science Center, these high school students learn about environmental science both through traditional book learning and through hands-on experience. Students often observe a pattern in the field before it comes up in class, allowing them to effectively discover the concept for themselves. Isaac Yoder, a junior at Eagle Valley High School, recognizes the value of this type of learning saying, “through this internship I gained experience relevant to real life jobs and collected information that affects the community instead of just seeing it in a classroom.”
Contributed by Peter Wadden, Landscape Stewardship Coordinator at Walking Mountains Science Center.