Each day of this internship has been an incredible experience. I’ve gained so much knowledge working on the Monongahela National Forest, and consider myself very lucky to have been able to work in such a beautiful place. Every day spent in the field provided incredible scenery and an opportunity to learn something new about our natural world. I loved seeing the fog slowly lift from the valleys in the mornings while we spent our days in the lush green mountains of West Virginia. I’ve never lived in an area where the Milky Way is visible by simply walking outside your door, or where I can sit on the porch and watch hundreds of lightning bugs flicker on June nights. This area really is something else.
I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor. Her expertise and knowledge of the forest helped me to feel comfortable in these new surroundings, where many of the plants were unknown to me before coming here. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to learn botany in an area with such incredible plant diversity. I’ll admit that I was intimidated at first (and still am a little) at the sheer number of plants on the Monongahela, but I’ve come to love the challenge of doing botany in an area with so many interesting types of habitats. I don’t know of another forest where within a two hour drive you can pass through high elevation spruce forests and sphagnum bogs (glades), heath barrens, grassy balds, hardwood forests, and dry shale barrens. It’s incredible, and there’s always something new to learn about. Also, being a self-identified lichen nerd, this forest contains incredible lichens because the pollution levels are so low. That was definitely an added bonus.
Knowing that the work we did will make an impact for the future health of the forest will always be something that I’ll value helping with. Collecting native seed to be used in mine-land restoration sites, and working to restore the red spruce forests of the Appalachians, will be something that generations beyond my lifetime will be able to appreciate.
I strongly recommend to anyone that is interested in botany to participate in the CLM Internship. It will be an experience that you will value for a lifetime, and working in the field is an unmatched way to broaden your plant knowledge. I’m very happy that I was accepted into the program. Krissa and Chris at Chicago Botanic Gardens were amazing, and the training week spent at the gardens was well worth it. I’ll always look back on this time fondly, and will take the skills I’ve gained with me throughout my career.
USFS – Monongahela National Forest