My time interning with the Soil and Water Conservation District has been eye-opening and encouraging. I am pursuing a BS in Agricultural Science with a Fisheries and Wildlife minor, so I enjoyed learning about the interdisciplinary projects the SWCD manages. I primarily worked with Heath Keirstead, BSWCD’s outreach coordinator. The first project I worked on was adding data and photographs to the SWCD’s online invasive plants database. I also created invasive species maps in GIS for the landowners participating in the Willamette Mainstem project. These maps show Linn and Benton County landowners with property adjoining the Willamette River the location of invasive plants on their properties.
Education events were a surprisingly enjoyable aspect of this internship. I helped guide a tour for students attending the Oregon Green Schools Summit at Jackson Frazier Wetlands. I am a birdwatcher, and luckily it was a great day for birds. We saw a male Ana’s Hummingbird doing mating displays near the beginning of our tour. Farther into the wetland, we saw dozens of red-winged blackbirds perching on cattails and displaying their epaulets. This was a great opportunity to talk about sexual dimorphism in animals as well as how the encroachment of reed canarygrass affects the habitat quality in this ecosystem. The birds continued to cooperate as we moved on. A male marsh wren had built a nest in a rose bush just a few feet from the boardwalk and was perched on top of the bush calling loudly. We later learned that it is common for marsh wrens to build very obvious ‘dummy’ nests and have their real nest hidden somewhere nearby. I really enjoyed sharing my interest in birds with the students.
I also had the opportunity to teach soil concepts to sixth graders at Forest Camp. It was great to see how much some of the kids already knew about soil. We did infiltration tests in a compacted area as compared to an undisturbed forest soil. Some of the students got so excited about it that they wanted to do timed infiltration races. But the most popular part of the experience was always the soil auger. Even the most aloof students were lining up for their turn to help pull out a soil sample.
By far my favorite part of this internship was the people I got to meet and work with. The staff, board members and volunteers were so supportive and encouraging. I really enjoyed working with them. Teresa Matteson, BSWCD’s soil conservationist, helped me setup the rainwater demonstration model for a presentation I gave about biodiversity and organic agriculture to my OSU class. And where else would a bunch of people go on a walk during their lunch break to look at an anthill or tell me where to find the best agates on the Willamette? I plan to come back and volunteer with the BSWCD staff this summer- just for fun!