Monday, January 03, 2011

Silver Creek: An Intern's Experience

Each year, interns at The Nature Conservancy's Silver Creek Preserve play an important role in monitoring, maintenance and other tasks at the preserve. The interns gain practical experience in conservation, and get to spend a summer on one of the most spectacular spring creeks in the West. Intern Dominique Lucio (above, with orange gloves) was this year's Charlie Blumenstein Water and Wildlife Conservation Intern, a program with Colorado College. Over the next week, we'll share his reports of his summer at Silver Creek and the work completed.

As my third year at Colorado College came to a close, I realized I had no summer plans. Having decided to major in environmental science only months before, I started looking for a related job or internship. Beginning my search on the CC Career Center website, I immediately stumbled across The Charlie Blumenstein Water and Wildlife Conservation Internship.

The more I read, the more excited I became as I realized how well my background fit the position: I had just taken several classes on gathering and analyzing different aspects of the environment; here was a chance to apply this knowledge and develop a real world feel for it.

Still, the internship description was only a page long; I had no idea what “habitat restoration” and “participating in scientific research and monitoring” entailed. Looking back now, I am so glad I applied and was allowed the amazing opportunity to experience and participate in the front lines of nature conservation.

As I began the twenty four hour drive from my home in Fort Worth, Texas, my mind raced with anticipation and curiosity. When I arrived at the preserve the next evening, my expectations proved completely wrong. Being a Texan, I assumed anything as far north as Idaho must be cold until late summer. Instead I was greeted with a lush green valley between beautiful purple and blue mountains. Just past the Preserve was the town of Picabo, even smaller than I had expected.

The Preserve manager, Dayna Gross, told me to come to the office to get acquainted with the place before the fly fishing season began in two days and the place was overrun. Though I didn’t understand at the time how 883 acres of preserve could be overrun, I soon learned. More than eighty fishermen showed up that Sunday for the annual barbeque celebrating the opening of fishing season. For the next three months, the quiet preserve was filled with men and women of all ages and from across the world focused intently on figuring out exactly what fly each famously picky trout was or wasn’t interested in.

Though I hadn’t realized it beforehand, Silver Creek is a sort of fly fishing Mecca, world renowned for its unbelievable amounts of huge brown and rainbow trout. Because of this reputation, as well as the vibrant range of wildlife present, the Preserve draws flocks of fishermen, birders and nature enthusiasts alike, all summer long.

With all this foot traffic on the preserve, it takes some serious behind the scenes work to keep the preserve as undisturbed and pristine as it is.

Preserve staff work tirelessly year round to keep invasive weeds at bay, harmful snails out of the creek, water conditions just right for the famous fish, and habitats inviting to migratory and year round birds, deer, bats, insects, and many other plants and animals. Preserve responsibilities can be broken down into several categories: monitoring, maintenance, and public relations.

Tomorrow: Dominique's experiences electro-shocking and monitoring at the preserve.

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