Thursday, January 31, 2008

Silver Creek Internships offer exploration in conservation

Silver Creek Crawford and Blumenstein internships available for 2008. Silver Creek offers two internships during the summer months. Both of these internships were established in the hopes of providing an, “experience that could be instrumental in influencing the professional path of a student, or for whom such an experience might spark a life-long interest in the environment and conservation."

The Blumenstein internship is open to Colorado College students; the Crawford internship is open to the public. Full job descriptions are available on The Nature Conservancy’s Careers page.

The Crawford internship was established by Gordon and Dona Crawford whose son fished Silver Creek often and fell in love with the place through his teen years. The Crawford’s internship endowment has grown in the past years and now also sponsors the Silver Creek preserve assistant. The endowment allows us to fully staff the preserve and keeps it looking and functioning well.

The Blumentstein family has created a Silver Creek’s Water and Wildlife Conservation Internship through Colorado College. This internship is a tribute to Charlie Blumenstein who fell in love with Silver Creek and spent many hours along its banks, much like the interns today. Both internships provide us with qualified staff for the Preserve and make the Preserve a place of learning, growing, and excitement during the summer months. We are so grateful to both families for leaving such a tangible and meaningful conservation legacy.

Avery Mackenzie, the 20o7 recipient of this internship, recently took some time to share some of her thoughts on this internship.

From Avery’s 2007 Report:

I headed into my internship for the summer of 2007 feeling a little differently than had many of my predecessors. Their reports used words like 'apprehensive', and 'excited tempered with nervousness'. Truthfully, I headed to Picabo, ID with one clear and unwavering emotion: Desire. It was the desire to catch huge trout!!! I had never been to Idaho before and all I knew about Idaho was potatoes, trout, and Hemingway. And Silver Creek Preserve has close ties to two of the three items (though I did eat vast quantities of the famous potatoes throughout the summer—including some delicious roasted red ones with the Blumensteins). I headed into the summer figuring that I would gauge my success by the pound weight of fish I caught, but in the end I realized that it was what I learned about conservation, successful administration of a non-profit and the hard work that it takes to make it happen that defined this as a successful summer. And the fishing wasn’t too bad either!

Water quality, habitat and biological monitoring: Successful management of a nature preserve requires attention to minute details and a good historical record of changes. Collecting data to update these records were a large part of my job. Measuring water quality on Silver Creek happened twice monthly at 5 different locations on the creek and its tributaries. Flow rates, depth and width measurements were taken to determine discharge. Turbidity, temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, concentrations of nitrates, and phosphates were also measured to portray an in depth view of stream health.

USGS (US Geological Survey) and Idaho Fish and Game conduct fish monitoring on Silver Creek every three years and 2007 was in the cycle. This meant two weeks of an electroshocking “mark and recapture study”, some of which occurred in the middle of the night. Electrofishing may have been my favorite job requirement. Netting the floating fish was fun and wet and measuring and weighing the fish gave a good view of what fish were in the creek. As a huge proponent of “catch and release”, I was torn when they asked me to kill a portion of the fish we caught. Ultimately, I understood the importance of getting an accurate age for the fish (by measuring the layers on its ear bones) to look at survival rates for different brood year [USGS also took fish tissue samples at this point to measure mercury concentrations].

The last area of monitoring involved invertebrate sampling. Dayna, the Preserve’s manager had each intern write a goal for the summer at the beginning of the internship. My goal focused on learning about the macro-invertibrates found n in Silver Creek so as to help me better understand the diversity of aquatic life, hatch cycles, and ultimately make me a better at flyfishing. So invertebrate sampling interested me a great deal. I liked scrubbing the insects off the rocks and picking through the algae. The samples had to be sent off for identification by professionals, but the folks from USGS helped me with basic identification of family and genus.

Work at Silver Creek Preserve was incredibly varied, which kept it interesting for me. No days were the same and I appreciated the diverstity and breadth of things I learned. This summer has not necessarily changed my career plans (I still send in my Medical School application), but it has made me appreciate the hard work and dedication that goes into the preservation of the “last great places on Earth.” Read Avery's full report.

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