By Timon Keller
This summer, I did an internship as the forestry program head with the A/U Ranches. In this position, I got to work with Ranch foreman Steve Murray and two natural resource technician interns, Dylan Sheets and Nick Jacobs, on developing baseline data to manage the forests on the A/U Ranches property. This internship was incredibly valuable to me for many reasons.
I received academic credit for the work we completed over the summer that directly counts towards my master’s thesis. One of the requirements of my degree, a Master of Environmental Management from Western Colorado University, requires that graduate students actually “get something done” and assist with a project that benefits an organization working towards improving environmental health. Over the summer, this is exactly what I got to do at the A/U Ranches!
We spent the majority of the summer collecting baseline data that will inform forest restoration and management at the A/U Ranches for years to come. Based on the data we collected, we will be working with Colorado state foresters to develop the best management options for the A/U Ranches’ forest and pursue funding to execute the management. Instead of writing a thesis that I may or may not use later in my life, this internship gave me the opportunity to participate in a project that will benefit many campers for years to come.
My program also requires that students consider how environmental issues can be communicated effectively to diverse audiences. What better place to do this than at camp! As part of the forestry program, I got to lead nature hikes with the youngest campers at Sky Valley Ranch. This challenged me to explain forestry and forest management in terms that children could understand and connect with. Additionally, I got to talk to countless members of the A/U Ranches community about forest management at the A/U Ranches and beyond, which taught me how to break out of science jargon and communicate more effectively.
Similarly, I got to develop my communication skills with the two interns I was working with over the summer. I was challenged to find new ways to explain our data collection and share my knowledge of field research. In return, I got to learn something new from my fellow interns every day – for example, about different birds around the Ranches or surf culture in Australia!
One highlight of the summer was to see the tangible impact our work had on the property and the A/U Ranches community. Campers and staff kept approaching me to ask more questions, follow up on previous conversations, or share an observation they made in the outdoors. It was amazing to see the love campers and staff have for the environment surrounding the A/U Ranches. This challenged me to learn as much as I could so I would have more to share with the community.
Besides the forestry work, we also helped out with some pasture management, where the impact of our work truly became visible this fall: On the lower Sunday pasture, the areas where we dug new irrigation ditches are covered in thick, healthy grasses.
One of the most fulfilling aspects of interning at the A/U Ranches this summer was seeing the positive impact our work has on the Ranches and the community.
Watch here for updates on internships that bless both Adventure Unlimited and its interns in the Christian Science community.