This summer, Beyond School Bells, a statewide partnership of Nebraska Children, worked with a coalition of partners to host its second annual summer internship program in conservation management. The program has multiple goals:
- to expose high school students to careers in the field of conservation management through hands-on work experiences
- to introduce youth to the diverse natural beauty that makes up our great state
- to support the efforts of our partners to develop and field-test meaningful, hands-on learning experiences that Nebraska’s young people need to become citizens prepared to support our state’s future prosperity
We partnered with Native Futures in Scottsbluff and Omaha’s Girls Inc. to recruit young people to participate in a two-week series of hands-on work experiences designed to expose them to the diversity of career opportunities available across our great state. Each team of students was supported by a mentor who worked alongside the youth and helped facilitate the mechanics of moving across the state and working and living in a variety of settings.
We asked this year’s mentors, Dakota Staggs and Kyann LeViner, to summarize their experiences for the blog. Here is installment number one, from Dakota:
My name is Dakota, and I filled the male mentor position for the 2018 Conservation Management Internship. I traveled with three high school students from Alliance, Nebraska, to six different conservation sites across the Good Life state. On Sunday, June 3, I picked up Collin and Caleb Boerschig — twins who recently graduated from Alliance High School — and Hunner LittleHoop, who will be entering his sophomore year in Alliance. After a quick stop to pick up some work pants, gloves, and hiking boots, we were off to our first destination: Cedar Point Biological Station!
Stop 1: Cedar Point Biological Station
Cedar Point Biological Station is a University of Nebraska – Lincoln field research facility and experimental classroom where many UNL summer courses are held to give students hands-on experience learning about the wildlife and habitat Cedar Point showcases. This campground used to be a Girl Scout camp and is now composed of more than 900 acres of prairie, canyons, and red cedar forests. We had a LOT to explore. After putting our things in Cabin #5, we were off to work! The camp director, Dr. Jon Garbisch, was out in one of many prairie fields clearing red cedar logs, so we joined him to learn some of the camp history and help maintain the native prairie. This was a quick start to some tough work, but the guys never hesitated to give it their all. We were quickly dirty and sweaty, but the breeze helped to keep us cool. After a few hours and a cleared field, we were done working for the night and cleaned up to head to dinner.
One of the unique features of Cedar Point Biological station is their aim to be waste-free. In the dining hall there were two buckets, one for trash and the other for compost. The trash bucket was far less full than the compost one. This was very interesting and uplifting for me to see, and I know that it gave the guys a look into how sustainability can be enacted in each part of the day, not just working in the field.
After dinner, we were off to explore! We found a trail in the middle of camp that led to a gazebo overlooking the campsite, and the trail continued to an overlook of the reservoir on the east side of Lake McConaughy’s dam. This was quickly a favorite spot, and much of our free time was spent here relaxing and enjoying the views. At the end of the trip, this location was a still a favorite, specifically because of the view, and each student was sure they would not forget its beauty.
The second day, we again worked to clear some red cedar, a species of tree we quickly learned was quite a nuisance in the area and state as a whole. After a few hours of tough work, we took our lunch and then headed out to help clear some trails — a nice break from hauling logs. We hiked about three quarters of a mile along the canyon and in the forest, stopping at points in need of maintenance or opportunity for Jon to teach us a little about what was growing or living there.
Cedar Point Biological station served each purpose of the internship very well. As our first stop, it was a quick introduction to the work ahead of us, but also an opportunity to learn about the environment, why conservation is necessary, and what that work can look like. We each grew in our appreciation for the environment and took away some great “memtal images” (memorable mental images — one of many phrases I learned on this trip). After a great start, we were off to Rowe Sanctuary.
Stay tuned for more in the series from the Internship Field Journal!