Portfolio of Experience Sustainability Internship Program 2010
Environmental Leadership Center O F WA R R E N W I L S O N C O L L E G E
Sustainability Internship Program
2010 Sustainability Internships
Sustainability Internships forge life-long commitments to environmental sustainability and pathways to real-world career goals. For Warren Wilson students, who engage each day in the unique liberal arts model of academics, work and service, Internships integrate this Triad learning with real-world work for some of the foremost environmental organizations in the nation. Whether focused upon the economic, cultural, or scientific aspects of environmental issues, students work with mentors to learn first-hand that these complex challenges require interdisciplinary solutions. They come to understand the scope of work and the degree of commitment required to create lasting, positive change. Upon returning to campus in the fall from such partner sites as The Nature Conservancy, Dogwood Alliance, and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, these students become teachers. Through public presentations about their summer experiences for civic, faith, public radio and campus audiences they inspire others to awareness and action.
NC Interfaith Power and Light . . . . . . . . . . . . .page 3 Asheville, NC Interns: Dave Grace, Lacey Cunningham
Offered to Warren Wilson students on a competitive basis, Internships include a stipend and housing. Students may choose to earn academic credit. Visit the Internship Program website at www.warren-wilson.edu/~elc/. Contact Stan Cross (email@example.com or 828.771.3782) or Ellen Querin (firstname.lastname@example.org or 828.771.3006) for more information or to request an Intern speaker.
Asheville Design Center . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .page 4 Asheville, NC Intern: Elizabeth Bonham Montreat Conference Center . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .page 4 Montreat, NC Intern: John McDermott Black Mountain Community Garden . . . . . . . .page 5 Intern: Christina Baumert Asheville HUB . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .page 5 Asheville, NC Intern: Katie Locklier Smithsonian Environmental Research Center . . . .page 6 Edgewater, MD Interns: Sam Perron, Graham Sivak Dogwood Alliance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .page 7 Asheville, NC Intern: Hannah Eisenberg National Audubon Society . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .page 7 Seabird Restoration Project / Bremen, ME Intern: Laurel Sindewald City of Asheville/Warren Wilson College . . . . .page 8 Climate Action Partnership / Asheville, NC Office of Sustainability, Intern: Jeremy Martin Transit Office, Intern: Emmet Fisher
Environmental Leadership Center Environmental sustainability is woven into the fabric of Warren Wilson, grounded in the College’s rich history of place and purpose. Since 1996, the College’s Environmental Leadership Center (ELC) has served to “raise awareness of local, national, and global environmental realities and to inspire caring citizens – especially our youth – to reflect, to communicate and to act as responsible caretakers of the earth.” Grounded in the College’s Triad of academics, work and service, the ELC’s programs educate, inspire and act on behalf of just and sustainable community. To learn more, visit the website at www.warren-wilson.edu/~elc/.
Our society is utterly unsustainable, and the real work of advancing sustainability is the work to radically alter our politics, economics, culture, technology, and way of life to harmonize them with nature. But that takes a little while, and conservation organizations do important work to help protect what we can in the meantime.
Sam Hyson, 2010 Intern Cover Photo, Left to Right: Jess Sutt, North Carolina Coastal Federation; Graham Sivak, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center; Laurel Sindewald, National Audubon Society Seabird Restoration Project
Wild South . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .page 9 Bankhead Wilderness / Boulton, AL Intern: fern Goodleaf Forest Watch / Asheville, NC Intern: Davey Bar-Shimon CooperRiis Healing Farm Community . . . . . .page 10 Mill Spring, NC Intern: Michelle Metzler North Carolina Coastal Federation . . . . . . . . .page 10 Newport, NC Intern: Jess Sutt The Nature Conservancy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .page 11 Long Island / Cold Spring Harbor, NY Intern: Sabrina Ip Nags Head Woods / Kill Devil Hills, NC Intern: Jo Werba NC Mountains District / Asheville, NC . . .page 12 Interns: Sam Hyson, Jessica Schaner Western North Carolina Alliance . . . . . . . . . .page 13 Asheville, NC Intern: Moriah Tucker The Wilderness Society . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .page 13 Southeast Region / Franklin, NC Intern: Jenn Wood Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont . . .page 14 Tremont, TN Interns: Andrew Handverger, Madelyn Kenny
North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light Intern: Dave Grace
North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light (NCIPL) is a nonprofit working to address the causes and consequences of climate change and promote practical, hope-filled solutions through education, outreach, and public policy advocacy. Religious traditions have been instrumental in the development of the human understanding of responsibility. In my internship, I witnessed people of faith opening to the consideration of climate change while carrying that recognition of responsibility. My internship centered on developing and implementing two programs: the Climate Justice Tour and Earth Contemplation. Much of my time was spent researching and emailing, making contact and organizing with religious and environmental leaders. I quickly realized I needed to work with precision in this abstract environment. As my first real experience in event planning, I became intimately aware of all the effects of my actions; what I did in my preparation became the conditions for the tour. I felt all the strain of creation but also the recognition of helping give shape to something larger than myself. With these two programs I was able to integrate academic interest in religion and science with being involved in the greater individual and collective responsibility of climate change. My position challenged me to think of effective ways to create dialogue and continue through to implementation. I gained experience in the organization of a state-wide nonprofit, opening my eyes to participation at a systems level, witnessing the role of nonprofit organizations in the political system first-hand, and understanding the impact of social dynamics on environmental policy. In all my activities, I was rewarded by the hopeful responses to climate change I witnessed throughout the state by people of faith. My most important insight is perhaps that no one really adamantly demands to remain attached to non-renewable energy. Renewable energy doesnâ€™t have the power to discontinue destructive human habits, but it can be a powerful symbol for a new way forward.
North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light Intern: Lacey Cunningham North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light (NC IPL) is a program of the North Carolina Council of Churches working with over 10,000 congregations and 35 state affiliates to address the causes of global climate change, and promote practical solutions through education, outreach and public policy advocacy. I was interested in improving my skills in event planning and organizing along with developing skills in grant writing, fundraising, and day-to-day nonprofit operations. Through the course of the internship I was also assigned tasks such as processing donations, updating social media sites, coordinating and participating in Earth Contemplation, and participating in a number of meetings. There are no typical days when working in a small nonprofit; you are required to wear a number of different hats and flow from one role to the next as seamlessly as possible. I expected to do typical intern activities and while I did make copies, sit in on meetings, and even brewed the occasional pot of coffee, I also met environmental leaders talking about real problems and real solutions. During my trip to the North Carolina coast I engaged in real community organizing developing relationships with local community members, learning about the history and perspective of place through our local host and visiting museums and people, and building momentum and interest in environmental issues through the Climate Justice Tours. This summer I talked with a lot of people who were strong in their faith and still had a lot of questions and uncertainties. I challenged my preconceived notions and asked uncomfortable questions. I finished my internship with more questions than answers, but they were better questions and I felt better about asking them.
Through my experience with North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light a quiet passion and calling emerged within me. I continue on my personal and spiritual journey with a stronger sense of self and place and with the knowledge that there is still much to discover and much to do. 3
Asheville Design Center Intern: Elizabeth Bonham The Asheville Design Center (ADC) engages a diverse community of western North Carolina citizens in quality design and planning solutions for livable communities. Begun as a single project in 2006, the ADC assists communities with development and design, and is formed by volunteer designers, planners, and architects from the local community. It has broadened its goals to include design projects ranging from community gardens to interstate highways. I completed three projects while working with the ADC: the ADC Resource Library, the Design Centers Survey, and the Burton Street Gardening Plan. Volunteer architects and planners at ADC allowed me to explore my interests and taught me skills by example while affording me the freedom to take advantage of those opportunities. My focus at ADC became performing a site analysis, working on vacant lot reclamation strategies, and ultimately constructing a business plan for an urban farm in the Burton Street neighborhood. Working at the Design Center, I was exposed to the concept that land use and the physical structure of our environment are the central properties upon which behavior and systems relationships depend. This concept reinforced my understanding of design as key to sustainable living. The built environment is as relevant as the natural environment; humans will build the environment in which to live no matter what. Accordingly, in order to exist safely and sustainably within the natural world, the principles
behind creating a built environment should be a profound consideration in our practices. In order for humans to function, their structures should be designed to fit into nature rather than damage it. My work at the ADC cemented my understanding of design as a crucial element of social, environmental, and even economic sustainability. The projects I observed convinced me so deeply of the importance of design that I plan to focus my undergraduate thesis and postgraduate research on land use planning related to sustainable community development.
Montreat Conference Center Intern: John McDermott The town of Montreat has 2,500 acres dedicated as wilderness preserve, in the foothills leading to Mt. Mitchell. My internship with the Montreat Conference Center was an expansion of the summer Clubs Program. As Outdoor Educational Ranger I worked out of the Nature Center with the other rangers on staff. The Clubs Program at Montreat provides an opportunity for kids to take part in activities and classes throughout the summer. I taught and facilitated the Outdoor Education class, which would culminate with three, 3-day backpacking trips at the end of the summer, each with a different age group. As we got closer to the three-day trips, I placed more emphasis on building lessons for each of the essential elements needed for survival: shelter, food, water, and fire. The lessons emphasized familiarity with oneâ€™s immediate surroundings, being conscious of food and water, and awareness of what was growing and living in the area. We looked at ways to create shelter and fire with as much efficiency as possible, and how to make useful survival necessities out of every day materials. The three-day trips were incredible. I not only got to spend time in a beautiful, pristine wilderness, but led children to experience this type of adventure for the first time. The kids all came back thrilled, without major injuries or difficulties, and I blossomed as a leader and educator. Being an Outdoor Educational Ranger has been one of my dreams for a long time. It was incredible to see this manifest, and to step into this role. It was an inspirational learning process for me and taught me more in one summer than I had learned in one whole school year. I will always look back on this summer, learning about the immense forest of the Appalachians, and bringing this knowledge of the wilderness to the kids I taught. 4
Black Mountain Community Garden Intern: Christina Baumert Located five minutes from the center of the town, the Black Mountain Community Garden allows people access to land for growing. Sixty families rent plots, growing fresh fruit and vegetables while also providing food to the local community. I didn’t realize how important a garden could be to a community until I began working in one. I was the garden intern for ten weeks during the summer, performing various tasks like weeding, watering, and planting. I worked - rain or shine - during the delightful 70 degree mornings and the boiling hot afternoons, toiling away double-digging beds and learning how to recognize different plants, properly water crops, and make beds. My lack of gardening experience initially resulted in needing to call my supervisor almost hourly, but this lessened as I became more experienced. I also struggled with motivating volunteers, until I came to realize I could not tell a volunteer to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. So I worked alongside each group, which was much more effective than trying to supervise everyone. I became a better leader as my leadership skills improved. Many volunteers truly inspired me. There was always one or two determined to serve in any way that they could, while others would be at every Community Garden event. These volunteers were such humble, good people; their actions drove me to be a better person. One fourth of the garden produce is donated. The Black Mountain Community Garden grows almost 3,000 pounds of food for more than 500 families in the community. In addition, most of the community gardeners give from their personal crops, their produce finding its way to families in need of healthy, organic vegetables. I grew to enjoy the freedom of working at my own pace without feeling pressured by oversight. I came to the garden knowing nothing, but I now believe gardening is an important life skill.
Asheville HUB Intern: Katie Locklier The Asheville HUB is an economic development organization seeking to foster a strong business environment and uphold a firm vision of the region’s future. While the HUB is more of a “think tank,” it has shown dedication to sustainability over the past several years through countless projects. My internship offered a glimpse into the real world of sustainability in action. Being part of the HUB Sustainable Community Initiative meant being part of a mostly virtual organization that functioned more like a think tank than a conventional nonprofit. Although each day was different, each experience culminated into several concrete achievements for my summer internship. My greatest achievement this summer was a presentation to the HUB board at their August meeting. Words cannot describe the feeling in my stomach as I was sitting in the room waiting to command the attention of some of the most influential people in Asheville. In perfect contrast to the anxiety beforehand, a feeling of pure joy spread across my face as I walked through the applause back to my seat afterward. Working as an intern for the HUB offered me the opportunity to see how sustainability works in the context of local government and local community and economic development. Prior to this experi-
ence, my perspective lacked an understanding of the basic political, economic, and social implications of a real commitment to the environment. It is truly challenging to bring several groups to the table, when their different passions and interests can be a handicap to progress. Environmental work is often impacted by, and indeed impeded, by social and economic issues. This internship was the most important experience I could have in my life right now. The opportunity reinforced my academic and career ambitions as well as put them into perspective, allowing me to gain valuable leadership skills, explore future job and educational interests, and become more aware of my community’s needs and resources. 5
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Intern: Sam Perron My intern position at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) near Annapolis, MD involved working in the Forest Ecology Lab. The lab studies forest canopy to gain an understanding of how forests are structured and how they function as part of a global ecosystem. Current projects include measurement of leaf litter accumulation, studies of succession after logging, and analysis of carbon cycling in forests. I was assigned to a study which involved analyzing how growth of the trees relates to their structure and environment. Every day of my internship was a little different, but each Monday I took measurements of tree diameters, a two-to-three hour sampling process using digital calipers to measure each of 100 trees scattered throughout the SERC forest. I observed the week-to-week changes in the forest, and entered the measurements into a data file on the lab’s network. A large portion of my summer was spent looking at the collected data and researching previous studies on tree growth. I learned an incredible amount about tree physiology and growth, how tree diameters fluctuate as new cells are produced and in relation to hydration and dehydration of the wood. During the last week of the internship I presented the results of my study to members of the other labs, which was an exciting way to share my research. SERC research is being used around the world to understand environmental issues related to watershed management, climate change, and much more. The research I did will eventually be part of a larger picture of how forests grow, and how they influence (and are influenced by) the Earth’s carbon balance. There is no way to improve ourselves as citizens of the Earth without first understanding how ecosystems work and how we interact
with them, and I was glad to be part of one of the critical first steps.
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Intern: Graham Sivak The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) conducts research on connections between land and water ecosystems in the coastal zone and provides the world with knowledge to meet crucial environmental challenges. Adjacent to a sub-estuary of the Chesapeake Bay in Edgewater, MD, over 180 researchers, technicians, and students study the environment in a variety of fields, from photobiology to forest ecology. I worked for the Terrestrial Ecology Lab on a project sampling the forest “understory” of the Forest Dynamics Plot at SERC. Forest Dynamics Plots are a network of international research plots created by the Center for Tropical Forest Science (CTFS) to study tropical and temperate forest function and diversity. At 8:00 every morning we gathered equipment and drove to the work site. We moved through the Forest Dynamics Plot, using a 1m2 quadrat to sample every other 10x10 meter subplot in a checkerboard pattern. We identified each species of vascular plant and determined the percentage of the 1m2 quadrat that each species covered. Then we measured the height and base diameter, counted the number of twigs, and tagged each tree and shrub less than 1cm diameter at breast height (1.3m above the ground). We recorded all of this information on datasheets that were later entered into a computer. Over the course of the summer, we sampled over 350 subplots, helping collect an enormous amount of data on the understory of the forest. Our work will be used this year to find patterns of herbaceous plant populations and woody seedling regeneration. In the future, the data we collected will be used to determine how the forest is changing. While it was challenging to stay motivated doing the same thing every day, I got to work in the forest and contribute to a comprehensive observational study important to our understanding of forest biology. I’m passionate about forest health and want to work in national forests doing research to further our understanding of what needs to be done to protect them. I’m confident that this internship will help me attain a job researching the growing problems facing the world’s forests. 6
Dogwood Alliance Intern: Hannah Eisenberg Dogwood Alliance is the only organization in southeast dedicated to holding corporations accountable for the environmental impact of their industrial practices. Using a combination of grassroots support and corporate negotiation skills, Dogwood Alliance is effective at achieving substantial results preserving southern forests. Major corporations, like Staples, have created policy changes for sustainable practices thanks to the Dogwood Alliance. My job focused on direct public contact mixed with secretarial duties. The largest portion of my time was spent working with the Associate Director, working on solicitation renewals and documentation for donations to each state Attorney General. This included tax forms, annual audit reports, business history, and individual state forms. Over 30 licenses had to be registered, which required an abundance of documentation and auditing research. I also worked with the campaign manager, whose job was to make Dogwood Alliance interactive and accessible to the public. I would assist her in scheduling tours and taking part in tabling opportunities at multiple local businesses and festivals. These opportunities let me connect to the people Dogwood Alliance tries to reach, from music festival enthusiasts to everyday grocery shoppers. In the beginning I struggled with completing both the licensing and campaign work alongside daily office tasks. Slowly but surely, the assignments became less of a weight and more of a challenge. I began the internship questioning my ability and ended up finding inner confidence. I was given a chance to work behind the scenes of a nonprofit, not just picketing for a cause, but keeping a nonprofit organization up on its many legal obligations, which takes serious skills, and requires a group of dedicated, business savvy, and inspired individuals. This internship inspired me to set my goals high and to never give up on a worthy cause. I will apply the organizational, work ethic, and social skills learned to further my life and my work as an environmental education major.
National Audubon Society Seabird Restoration Project Intern: Laurel Sindewald Project Puffin began in 1973 as an experimental research project to bring puffins back to Eastern Egg Rock in the Gulf of Maine. Since then, Project Puffin has expanded to include five islands and multiple species. Every year a team of biologists, volunteers, and interns return to these islands to continue the effort. As one of these interns, I worked on a variety of different projects. I recall sitting in a blind to identify birds by the numbered bands on their legs, or discovering the composition of the chick diet by watching the parents bring in fish. I also participated in â€œgrubbing,â€? which is the method for banding and measuring puffin chicks. This involved situating myself upside down or on my belly under huge boulders, uncertain of my escape as I tried to catch a glimpse of a tiny ball of gray fluff in the gloom. Over the course of the summer I learned field methods for trapping adult birds and was exposed to contemporary field techniques for metapopulation studies, productivity studies, and feeding studies. I can now identify many seabirds in the field without much difficulty, as well as some other coastal and migratory bird species.
The islands I worked on were harsh, impersonal, and yet strikingly beautiful. The staggering beauty of storms coming through always blew me away, and the stars were brighter than I had ever seen before. The night before I left, I went rowing in the bay to watch the sunset. I sat in my rowboat, lingering on the water with thousands of tiny bioluminescing creatures gracing each stroke of my paddle. I swirled my hand around their cold fires, and hoped to come back again some day. Yet while my experiences with Project Puffin were very positive, what really struck me is that there may never be a point where the puffins, terns, and other seabirds will be able to fend for themselves. I think it is important for anyone approaching internships such as this to question the techniques they are learning. I intend to spend time in the future contemplating more effective ways to explore and expand current conservation approaches, such as the one exhibited by Project Puffin. 7
The City of Asheville Office of Sustainability Intern: Jeremy Martin The City of Asheville created its Office of Sustainability approximately three years ago with the creation of a Sustainability Management Plan, designed in response to local progressive thought focusing on environmental efficacy and sustainability. The plan addresses areas of great concern, including land-use issues, energy efficiency, and carbon emissions reduction. My internship was providing staff and research support for policy-related city initiatives. I assisted my supervisor in two projects: the Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment (SACEE) and the Green Team project. Another project was spent obtaining LEED credits for the construction of a recreation center at the Livingston Street Park, which involved designing some of these credits, then tailoring them to the Recreation Center project. I researched example surveys, past applications, and construction policies (ANSI) in order to assure total compliance. I would attend meetings with the LEED coordinators on the project or participate in conference calls. I gained a great deal of knowledge in many respects. I determined that sustainability is much more than energy efficiency and carbon reduction: it’s about working toward addressing environmental concerns in a holistic sense. It’s not simply looking at the issues, but really focusing on economic and social effects concurrently. More importantly, I learned sustainability must begin from the bottom up, from local government and concerned citizens. This internship was an amazing opportunity. It is wonderful to see a policy-related internship alongside the numerous science and environmental studies. This experience definitely affected my growth as both student and citizen. I am willing to take everything I learned and experienced to work toward addressing the issue of civic
involvement in the political process. No change will come - whether political, environmental, or social - without local governments and civic involvement. This whole experience has inspired me to start addressing issues from a more holistic perspective.
The City of Asheville Transit Office Intern: Emmet Fisher The City of Asheville’s Transportation Department recently went through its first ever Transit Master Planning process. As an intern I was assigned work on transit-specific projects, especially tasks related to the implementation of the Asheville Transit Master Plan in 2010. Daily responsibilities included identifying, analyzing and sighting transit stops, benches and shelters; testing and monitoring route changes made by the Master Plan; developing partnerships through outreach in the community; using mapping software to communicate route changes; and handling day to day office needs. Because my work related to transportation, I kept thinking about it, even on my commute. I spent my bike ride into Asheville thinking about bike safety, pedestrian facilities, and land use patterns. The bus ride home was always an excellent opportunity to talk with transit riders and gain insight into the system’s challenges and opportunities. With almost every task I completed I connected the dots and saw how it could in some way work to increase transit ridership. This internship helped me grasp the important concept that since some forms of transportation are better for society and the environment than others; it is important that we fund those forms of transportation (such as bike and transit infrastructure) rather than automobiles. For many people in the Transportation Department at the city, providing transit and a strong pedestrian and bike infrastructure is more about social justice than environmentalism. For myself, I cannot separate the social solutions from the environmental solutions; I think transit is both. For everyone in the Department, providing alternative forms of transportation was about doing their best to make things better for everything and everyone. Because of the internship I came to realize more concretely the need for a strong body of citizens to make change. The internship renewed my desire to be an active citizen, reaffirmed my academic path, and sparked an interest in government work later in life. 8
Wild South - Bankhead National Forest Intern: fern Greenleaf Wild South is a nonprofit organization working to preserve and restore native wildlands in the Southern Appalachian Region. Wild South has succeeded in reforming the Forest Service’s destructive management practices in the Bankhead Forest to create and implement restoration plans and to collect field survey data so Alabama’s striking canyons and wilderness areas can be better preserved in the future. I spent my internship in the Alabama office working on their non-native invasive plant survey and their canyon mapping project. Because the Bankhead Forest contains hundreds of miles of deep sandstone canyons, no one has precisely mapped all of them. The point of Wild South’s canyon mapping project is to correct and supplement the Forest Service’s incomplete and inaccurate canyon maps by ground-truthing every watershed in the forest. This ambitious project ensures that all canyon areas will be recognized by the Forest Service and put under special protections. During the hottest Alabama summer on record, I wandered along topo lines scanning for stone outcrops and trying to avoid mosquitoes, ticks, copperheads, and herds of wild hogs. The humid air was reminiscent of a hot soup until I descended into a canyon, when it suddenly became cool and breathable. Hemlocks netted the fine mist from cascading streams and held it like an enchantment. The humans who had found these refuges before me had left behind arborglyphs, flint, and old still sites that sometimes boasted the cleft of a Sherriff’s ax in their large, rusted vats.
This internship taught me a huge amount about how government agencies, a nonprofit organization, a local community, and resource extraction industries all struggle to interact in having their various needs met. I also better recognize how we need environmentalism to be working toward restructuring our system so people’s livelihoods depend more on the functioning of ecosystems rather than the demolishing of them.
Wild South - Forest Watch Intern: Davey Bar-Shimon Wild South is a nonprofit actively seeking ways to restore the fractured ecosystems of Southern Appalachia, engaging the community to conserve forestlands through a number of grassroots initiatives, volunteer projects, and grant writing. Wild South’s Forest Watch initiative covers all the national forests found in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Carolinas. As one of eight Wild South interns. I was placed on Forest Watch, a task which involved monitoring all proposals, actions, and scoping done by the United States Forest Service (USFS). Everyday I researched proposals, decisions, and notices from the USFS, looking at archived files for timber sales already in progress, figuring out what sort of forest types were actually on the site, and discussing alternative responses. Drafting comments to the USFS was my primary task and I had to clearly and concisely state alternatives, concepts, and resources in order to be taken seriously. I had myriad opportunities to learn about the issues facing our national forests and the challenges for the future of forestry. I was fortunate enough to join field trips lead by a number of inspirational people whose lives were dedicated to forest conservation, allowing me to work right at the heart of the issue and reinforce the idea that our forests need to be protected by all, not just any small group with one ideal. Wild South provided me with the resources I needed to be part of the Forest Watch program, and my research at Wild South gave me a stronger sense of confidence in conserving our national forests. Now I know it is imperative to conserve what is left and create accountable ways to maintain our national forests for the future. The impact of a few aware people can trigger immense change and respect for proper forest management. Clearly, the people who value our wild lands need to voice their concerns and feelings for better care of the forest.
CooperRiis Healing Farm Intern: Michelle Metzler CooperRiis is a healing farm community in Mill Spring, North Carolina, serving adults who struggle with brain, mood, and personality disorders. It combines traditional psychotherapy and the support of a community with a comprehensive life skills program. I spent the majority of my time working with residents in the garden and with the animals. The most difficult aspect of my work was learning to balance physical labor and being a support person for residents. I had to overcome the tendency to focus my attention on specific tasks rather than the greater goal. The central purpose of the garden and animals was not to produce food, but to help heal. It was important for me to step back and look at the reasons I was working and to become less task-oriented. It was easy to forget that the people I was working with were in the midst of dealing with enormous challenges that were greater than farm chores. The therapeutic model is different from standard mental health care in that it provides opportunities for residents to make choices regarding their recovery and their life. They address the reasons they came to CooperRiis and simultaneously re-learn the skills needed to participate in the greater community. The CooperRiis residents continually shattered my ideas about what is normal, what is healthy, and where exactly the lines of mental health are drawn. I came to understand the challenges and unique perspectives of the residents, and to respect that mental health recovery is a part of the natural process of becoming a full person.
North Carolina Coastal Federation Intern: Jess Sutt The North Carolina Coastal Federation (NCCF) is the state’s only nonprofit organization working to conserve the natural beauty and productivity of the North Carolina coast through education, advocacy, habitat restoration, and preservation. This summer I descended the mountains to work as an environmental educator for the North Carolina Coastal Federation. During my first week with NCCF I was learning everything from how to dock a boat and bait a crab pot to low impact development techniques and coastal pollution mitigation. By my third week I was teaching audiences of all ages about all things North Carolina coast. Being comfortable enough to independently lead groups in hands-on restoration and education made me realize how much knowledge I’d gained and gave me confidence in my abilities as an educator. I learned more than I ever could have imagined, educated masses of people about the North Carolina coast, and gained priceless experience in environmental education coordination. There was never a morning I woke up dreading work. My days and weeks were filled with exciting new projects and events. When I wasn’t writing curriculum or directly educating at Hammocks Beach State Park, I would be leading restoration volunteers at Jones Island, planting rain gardens with local elementary students, or conducting wetland surveys and research with UNC, NOAA, and the National Estuarine Research Reserve. Reaching out from NCCF to partner with these other groups allowed me to not only be fully immersed in an environmental nonprofit, but also a state park, school systems, national research foundations, and universities. I met and assisted individuals responsible for media, grant writing, budgeting, labor, and customer service. Every day I worked alongside marine scientists, educators, and environmental lawyers. Simply knowing these people and how they arrived at their current profession helped me to understand my own direction in life and how to get there. I remember the park rangers and naturalists who taught me about the joy of nature when I was a little girl and unknowingly instilled fascination lasting into my 20’s. That feeling provides my motivation for environmental education. The spark in the eyes of children of all ages as they watched oysters squirt filtered water into the air, caught a
native hermit crab, or tried to hold an eel affirmed that I’m doing what I love most in life and truly helping others to learn about and care for our world. 10
The Nature Conservancy - Long Island Intern: Sabrina Ip The Nature Conservancy is one of the worldâ€™s largest conservation organizations, and has been monitoring endangered piping plovers and least terns for more than twenty years on Long Island. Through their efforts, their numbers have more than doubled. I was stationed along the southern beaches of Long Island as a plover steward intern, monitoring these two endangered species of shorebirds. My job entailed walking through ten miles of beach to locate and fence nesting sites and track bird numbers through the nesting season. Every day, my team and I would walk an average six miles of beach, slowly making our way from one access point to another while keeping an eye out for birds. These walks became a sort of meditation for me, waves ebbing and flowing on one side, long stretches of sand ahead of me. Whenever we saw a bird, we would note our observations. If we found a new nest, or chicks that just hatched, we would go back to fence the area to prevent eggs and chicks from being run over. I usually ended the day exhausted and covered in sweat, sand, and bird poop. I felt completely lost during my first two weeks working. However, by my third week, I found myself getting the hang of spotting birds. By the time I finished my internship, my teamâ€™s section had 27 piping
plovers born and fledged, many of whom were migrating south for the winter. I realized that without our active roles in fencing off areas from human traffic, the number would be much lower. I was grateful to be surrounded by a team of people passionate about our work. I learned a lot about conservation and how to stick up for the birds while also compromising with homeowners. Going out to the beach every day and seeing the birds develop from eggs to fledges was the highlight of my summer.
The Nature Conservancy Nags Head Woods Intern: Jo Werba Working in conjunction with US Fish and Wildlife, the Nature Conservancy at Nags Head Woods manages the Alligator River Refuge and the Climate Change Adaptation Program with its different projects to restore hydrological systems and slow the impact of sea level rise. Building oyster reefs and planting trees to stabilize soil are two of the projects underway. I was responsible for finding and counting seedlings, measuring for height and diameter. The second project was mapping Phragmites, an invasive grass on the marsh. I woke up early each morning to drive to the Alligator River Refuge, about forty-five minutes from the office. The road ends on the sound with marsh on either side, where we worked walking the serrated marsh grasses under a cloudless blue sky in 92-degree temperatures and heat indexes up to 110. Even when the grass is short, the actual ground is impossible to see underneath the vegetation; sinking into the mud or falling in holes is uncomfortably common. The hot sun made every breeze and small cloud something to notice and appreciate. The isolation was amazing; it was rare to be so a part of nature instead of apart from it. No matter how tired or hot, a deep breath and a look around was always enough to get me back on track. How could anything be bad in such a beautiful place? I definitely felt privileged to be able to be in the marsh everyday. It was rewarding to provide data that, without me, would not have been collected. I learned how ecological research works in union with land management. I also learned a lot about work ethic and responsibility. It was really up to me to ensure everything got done and that it happened; Iâ€™ve brought this attitude back to work and am more committed to being productive now and valuing my time more. 11
The Nature Conservancy NC Mountains District Intern: Sam Hyson The Nature Conservancy has protected millions of acres in over 30 countries, and has been working in Hickory Nut Gorge since the early 1980s as part of its campaign to protect the Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment landscape. My internship with The Nature Conservancy consisted of leading guided hikes at Bat Cave Preserve in Hickory Nut Gorge, removing invasive plants at Bat Cave and McClure’s Bog, working in the West Asheville office, and monitoring property boundaries and rare plant populations in various locations. The most creative and meaningful component of the internship was preparing for and leading the guided hikes, which enhanced my own knowledge of the region and its ecology, and gave Jes and me the meaningful work of transferring some of that knowledge to others while striving to stimulate people’s admiration for the natural world. We practiced the various skills associated with hike leading, such as public speaking, interacting with an audience, and keeping an eye out for safety. As we walked along the trails, we tried to help people see the forest not merely as a place for recreation, but as a source of food and medicine, and a beautiful, complex ecosystem on which we all depend. Working for a large environmental organization was a valuable experience. It helped me learn more about my own strengths and weaknesses and what kind of work feels meaningful to me, and it caused me to think more closely about my own environmental philosophies and refine my perspectives on conservation and management. This was my first opportunity to apply my education off campus in a work setting. At times it was frustrating, but I understood that mainstream conservation organizations, despite their imperfections, do play an important role in protecting nature and biodiversity from industrial capitalism. Our society is utterly unsustainable, and the real work of advancing sustainability is the work to radically alter our politics, economics, culture, technology, and way of life to harmonize them with nature. But that takes a little while, and conservation organizations do important work to help protect what we can in the meantime.
The Nature Conservancy NC Mountains District Intern: Jessica Schaner My primary job this summer was leading hikes and removing invasive plants at the Bat Cave Preserve. I also had the opportunity to work at other Nature Conservancy preserves, including McClure’s Bog, a rare Southern Appalachian bog. The best part of this internship was that I became much more familiar with the plants of the Southern Appalachians. I now know black cohosh and its medicinal uses, bloodroot and its skin dying properties, and how to identify Carolina silverbell by its distinctive bark. I became confident talking to the public about ecological issues such as chestnut blight, hemlock wooly adelgid, and climate change. Since the caves on the preserve were closed, a pressing topic we discussed on our hikes was white nose syndrome, an ecological catastrophe that has killed over a million bats. We tried to stress to our hikers the link between this die-off of bats and the overall decline in ecosystem health occurring because of human activities.
Leading hikes was the most rewarding aspect of this internship because it gave me the opportunity to revive people’s amazement at the natural world. From the explosive seep dispersal methods of jewelweed, to the millipede’s defensive cherry-scented musk, hikers were reminded that nature is not below humans in its complexity and intelligence. I tried to emphasize in the hikes that food and medicine once came not from the grocery store, but from the forest. Many women were amazed to know that the black cohosh pills they bought at the drugstore are derived from the same plant that grows wild in their backyard, and that a plant with the name like stinging nettle is actually one of the most nutritious greens in the forest. It was rewarding to have little kids thrilled by daddy long legs, millipedes and snails. I am so thankful to have had this opportunity to intern for The Nature Conservancy because of the experience it gave me in the real world of environmental education and conservation.
Western North Carolina Alliance Intern: Moriah Tucker The Western North Carolina Alliance is a grassroots environmental advocacy group based in Asheville, NC. Begun in 1982, the Alliance’s primary goal is to protect and to preserve our natural land, water and air resources through education and public participation in policy decisions at all levels of business and government. All of the Alliance’s accomplishments stem from community involvement and the efforts of ordinary citizens. Because of the fluid nature of my job, my tasks were always changing. A normal day might include attending a hearing over a mining permit, researching mercury levels in fish from Lake Fontana, organizing a steep slopes panel discussion, fighting a permit for the West Waynesville quarry, participating in chapter meetings, or tabling at events such as The Mountain Sports Festival. I was also able to experience working with an ecologist, the French Broad Riverkeeper, and several lawyers. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see all of the different layers within an environmental nonprofit organization. My job as the Community Outreach Intern taught me that, as important as communicating my thoughts may seem, it is much more important to listen respectfully. From conversations with the community, I learned people in Western North Carolina have a deep connection to the land and are concerned with preserving both the land and their way of life. The goals of most citizens and environmental activists are not that different! I also learned everyone living in Western North Carolina is connected. I realized that a single person may not make a huge difference, but a group of individuals has incredible strength. Alliance employees work hard, but it’s citizens who are really behind instigating change. I learned that in order to create a more sustainable way of life in Western North
Carolina, the focus should be on educating regular people about the environment. Once they are heard and respected, real change can happen.
The Wilderness Society Intern: Jenn Wood The Wilderness Society is a national organization started in the 1930s with the intention of protecting wilderness through legislative lobbying. In addition to passing the very first Wilderness Act in 1964, the organization has since helped protect 110 million acres of permanent wilderness with 500,000 supporters and employees working through field studies, lobbying, and donation. My internship with The Wilderness Society included a project conducting land history research in a small, segmented range of the Nantahala mountains called the Cowee Mountains. I used acquisition records found at the Forest Service office in Asheville to document a wide variety of information - from overdue tax notices to biological characteristics – into a summary narrative and timeline showing the Cowees and how the land was used. I went through long lists of deeds, tax documents, and abstracts, synthesizing the information into a relevant narrative describing each tract of land. I was able to leave a straightforward, easy-to-read narrative in place, backed by a collection of historical records, useful to the Nantahala mountain region for its history and potential in future conservation efforts. I realized land awareness education is especially important for local communities. One way to teach conservation is to illustrate the history of their land. Through my land history narrative project, I am helping the community learn about the Cowee Mountains, with the intention that they stand against the negative changes they see around them. Once awakened, this community will have reason to band together for conservation efforts. I learned through my internship that the heart and soul of conservation work begins with building communities and connecting locals to their land. During my internship I met diverse people: land trust employees, Native American historians, and concerned citizens. Bringing individuals like these together creates a strong foundation to support conservation. I had the opportunity to create this background for conservation with my internship.
Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont Intern: Andrew Handverger The Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont is a nonprofit environmental education center that provides programs to the public for deeper experiential study, “connecting people and nature.” Tremont hosts school groups of all ages, providing outdoor classes for school groups, science teachers, college students, and inner city elementary students. Studies have found that people who care most for environmental issues have fond experiences engaging with wilderness as a child. This is where Tremont comes in. Kids go in scared of bugs and leave knowing the difference between red oaks and white oaks. After a week in the Smoky Mountains, they fall in love. I was one of four environmental education college interns working in a community of teacher naturalists. I facilitated and assisted activities, led long day hikes, and taught nature clubs on various topics like stream physics, edible plants, survival skills, predator/prey relations, and other hands-on outdoor lessons. My personal nature club was on plant identification. I titled it ”Plantastic Organisms.” Working at Tremont, though difficult at times, served awesome lessons for me. Although the park had hundreds of miles of trails, it could feel very isolated without a car, computer, or cell phone signal. Despite those challenges, my summer was a tremendous opportunity. I’ve worked for an organic farm and a native plant botanical garden, but I had never tried teaching. I came into the job not knowing the difference between teaching a fourth grader and teaching a fifth grader!
I’ve gained a deeper insight about the importance of teaching the next generation. Once children build a relationship with nature, they will want to protect it as they grow older. It is amazing to see children bond with their environment. I was touched to see kids learning and to see how proud they were of themselves.
Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont Intern: Madelyn Kenny Tremont provides accessible wilderness experiences and educational programs, nurtures appreciation of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and touches visitors of all ages. Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont has been connecting people with nature since 1969. What I learned at Tremont provided me with a new energy for a professional and personal future in environmental education. As the Environmental Education Intern, I was given the opportunity to take on a leadership role hosting and supervising youth groups, and along with other opportunities, this opened me to new experiences and improved my facilitation capabilities. I crossed the line from my comfort zone to my growth zone every day. The staff was rock solid, everyone ready and open to new ideas, and brilliant in their jobs. Our team was close and fluid in our rotations throughout each day and we really melded well. During the 9 weeks at Tremont, I accomplished things I’ve never attempted before: designing and facilitating a successful environmental education experience, and learning activities for energizing kids and building teams. This past summer will contribute greatly to my work with sustainable living: working with people in experiential environments, creating open and supportive relationships, preparing for the unexpected to keep learning on track, and - when all else fails - having fun. In my professional future I want to work with youth groups and families in forests or garden settings, where we can build relationships around our connection to plants and animals. Even more, I realize our national parks and forests should be shared with children who can not afford summer camps, and I may research funding for that purpose. There needs to be a fundamental change in our social and physical attitude toward the world we live with. The spirit of the Smokies this summer changed my life. 14
Intern Alums At Work “Working as an intern in Costa Rica with The Tropical Forestry Initiative was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The beauty, culture, and simplicity of life was truly remarkable. Among all the splendor that Costa Rica had to offer, my favorite, by far, was getting to know the children of the village. Eager to learn, they filed into a single room schoolhouse, the younger children in the morning, and the older ones in the afternoon. They didn’t have much: a few books, tables, a chalkboard, and an eager spirit, thirsty for knowledge. Living in another culture helped me to develop the skills and tools that I use each day teaching 3rd graders here in Asheville and working with families from different backgrounds. I learned that you don’t need much to teach, just the world around you, a desire to inspire knowledge, and the right attitude. This was truly a life changing experience!” Marisa Albert, BA, Elementary Education, WWC 2006 "My Smithsonian Environmental Research Center internship was a pivotal moment in my professional life. I went armed with a lot of enthusiasm to share my joy for nature, but no experience teaching. The internship gave me the experience I needed. Now I develop the Sharing Nature Leadership Training Program for teenagers, designed to develop inspiring and responsible outdoor leaders. This past year I trained a group of high school students who led nature programs for over 300 middle school students nationwide.” Greg Traymar, BA Environmental Studies, WWC 2007
"I did an ELC internship with the North Carolina Coastal Federation. I had a passion for the environment, but until actively teaching kids about the environment during that internship, I didn't realize that education was the venue for my interests. Now, I am a Master Teacher at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, North Carolina. I teach science to people of all ages and I love my job. It's meaningful, I learn new things every day and I have fun at work!" Adrienne Testa, BA Elementary Education, WWC 2009
NONPROFIT ORG. U.S. POSTAGE PAID ASHEVILLE, NC PERMIT NO. 272
ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERSHIP CENTER CPO Box 6323 PO Box 9000 Asheville, NC 28815-9000 www.warren-wilson.edu/~elc/
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“To build students’ preparation for both work and citizenship, higher education needs to give new emphasis to fostering practical judgment and problem solving “in the field.” College Learning for the New Global Century Association of American Colleges and Universities