In search of the next generation of ecologists

By Denise Giles

February 2019

It is always with a sense of excitement that we sort through applications looking for the team of seasonal interns that will contribute to our research, monitoring and restoration efforts. After 10 years of contributing to this process, I am always invigorated by the interest and passion for the natural world that so many of the applicants express in their cover letters, as well as in their experiences. While some may have a degree in botany, or field experience from coursework or undergraduate research, others are just discovering their interest in the natural world after degrees in completely different fields. Each year, we hope that these internships will provide guidance for those interested in careers in botany, ecology, conservation, restoration and other natural resource fields.

Interns acquire skills in plant ID and various monitoring techniques, and each day provides hands on lessons in ecology as we monitor rare plants and assess habitat quality. Interns experience what it is like to collect field data, and are exposed to a variety of methodologies to ask (and hopefully contribute to answering) research questions related to rare plant monitoring and habitat management. As I return to sites over the years, my timeline is determined by the seasonal crew: “Well, we set up that Willamette Daisy plot with Andrew, Tobin, and Kelsey, so that was 2013,” goes my thought process.  “This is where Autumn and I saw a tick on a lizard; it was really rainy in 2011,” or “Lucy, Nadav, and Abbie helped plant those Kincaid’s lupine… so that was 2017.” The work of each years’ intern crew contributes to the whole of the projects they work on.

2017 intern crew members Lucy Keehn, Abbie Harold, and Nadav Mouallem

2013 interns Andrew Heaston, Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz (now Raybould) and Tobin Weatherson plant Willamette daisy (Erigeron decumbens) in Eugene