National Wildlife Federation Rocky Mountain Regional Center – lots of public lands, wildlife conservation, and “fun” with the new administration!

It’s a fun situation when what you’re trying to protect is being slapped in the face by the new presidential administration. That’s not sarcasm. Really. It’s been an adventure, and we’re definitely making progress! Here at the NWF-RMRC in Denver, my main project is working on public land protection and energy development mitigation with the Dept. of the Interior and the BLM.

Of course, as the intern (or “Project Assistant” which is my actual title), I’m learning so much here because I’m working on so many different projects. From big horn sheep habitat conservation in the foothills to philanthropy event-coordinating at extravagant mansions near downtown Denver to working early childhood conferences and sportsmen expos, I’m pulled in all different directions, and it’s a blast.

My main project, however, is what is most important to me. I started out contacting agency officials to sign a letter I assisted in writing to the new Secretary of the Interior Zinke with the goal to keep leasing reforms in place from 2010 concerning energy development on public lands (which is an entirely new concept to me, having grown up in Texas where the majority of the land is privately owned). These reforms, as some of you will find out in my presentation at the end of the semester, require deeper looks into environmental protection concerns on lands that are being considered for oil and gas development.

My next step, and what I’m really excited about (and why I don’t have any pictures to post yet), is in the beginning of April, I get to go out to South Park, Colorado, speak to businesses, hike in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, and possibly learn to fly fish ALL as a part of my business outreach for the project. Not a bad gig, right?

Anyway, that is pretty much all as of right now that I’m allowed to post concerning my work with the NWF.

Oh, and one more thing: the best thing about Colorado is definitely the beer. 🙂

The Edge of the Earth

Living on the Cape the past two and a half months has taught me what winter really means. I never knew it snowed at the beach until I came here. That being said, the weather hasn’t been able to slow down our work very much… I’ve had countless days of frozen feet and hands at this point. I work for Safe Harbor Environmental as a coastal restoration intern, but I’ve been thrown into many different aspects of what they do here. So far, I’ve planted beach grass to stabilize coastal banks, re-vegetated bare areas with native plants, dug dry wells for stormwater management, helped create permits and environmental management plans for new projects, gone to town meetings and conservation commission hearings, set up erosion control protocols for construction sites, and put in biomimicry to restore dunes. We have many jobs up here, which makes this internship such a huge learning experience and never monotonous. If you’re wondering what “biomimicry” is, it is a coastal restoration system that was set up by Safe Harbor to mimic the random matrix and performance of native vegetation. It mimics performance by collecting and stabilizing sand from storm winds. We use 14 inch wooden shims and place them randomly on beaches and eroded areas to build up sand and restore dunes. Before I arrived here, they were able to build up 22-24 feet of sand in just two years for one of their projects. Here is a photo I took of a biomimicry project we started when I first arrived and has already had quite a bit of sand collection.

My project was initiated after a client consulted us about her bare area outside her house, which is located on a bayside beach in Provincetown. We inspected the site and found that there was vegetation growing around the bare area, but something (maybe a disturbance or drought) caused this bare section to die off. We took soil cores to see if we could find answers, but nothing was able to give us clarity. I was given much of the reigns on this project since it was to become my internship project and together, my supervisor and I decided on a diversity matrix of native vegetation to be planted here in order to see what species (if any) are successful. We based the vegetation choices on what we observed growing in the surrounding area. The plantings were postponed a couple times due to it being blizzard season, but we finally were able to get them in a few weeks ago. I am currently monitoring the site and measuring the woody stems to detect growth. There won’t be much to see for a couple growing seasons, but hopefully I will be able to get some preliminary data (dead or alive and possibly some minor growth) before I leave this place. Here is a photo of me planting at the site. 

Fair winds!

-Caitlin H.(iggins)

Staring at Sloths (not part of my project)

Along with three other MSEM students from Cohort 4 and a PhD student from Indiana University, I am conducting an independent research project in Costa Rica as part of a three year project. The overall project is looking at land fragmentation effects on forest condition, community vitality, and primate health. My project focuses on examining the effects of participation in economic incentive programs (payments for environmental services) on equity and perceptions of forest health. Read more