A Summer to be Inspired

Steep Rock Association’s first ever Van Sinderen Intern, Karlie, shares her experiences at Steep Rock Association this summer:

Starting off the Van Sinderen Conservationist Internship with a nest check of a kestrel box containing five screeching kestrel nestlings was an awesome experience. The siblings were all at different stages of development, and the youngest was estimated to be about five days old. While the birds were out, the resident expert on all things kestrel, or “Professor Art,” recorded the sex and banded each baby in between sharing his wealth of knowledge about the bird’s developmental stages, habits, and habitat. By the time they were safely delivered back to their nest, I knew this internship was going to be the right fit for me.

I have always had a passion for outdoor activities and learning about our environment and the ways we interact with it. To allow members of the community to continue enjoying the outdoors and the Connecticut forests like those that I have grown up in, people like the dedicated staff of Steep Rock Association and other conservation experts are integral in keeping these environments safe. I was very excited to learn the ins and outs of conservation through this experience. This includes studies of biodiversity, like the Northern Goshawk survey that I had the opportunity to help with. The area of the study, the land of Steep Rock Preserve, was marked with evenly spaced GPS points from which to project the nestling call and the fledgling call, each within their respective time periods.

However, the daily operations that are necessary to maintain the land of the Steep Rock preserves is not always as soft and fluffy as getting to hold baby kestrels. Throughout the summer, I was weeding, weed whacking, and trimming trees along the trails to keep them enjoyable and functional for hikers. I was also tasked with digging out water bars, re-blazing trails, breaking apart beaver dams causing trails to flood, and pruning back the view on the summit of Steep Rock. One of the toughest jobs included hauling all sorts of tools up to a work site just short of the Waramaug’s Rock summit at Macricostas Preserve.

One of my favorite aspects of this internship was the inherent underlying presence of service to the community. Access to natural resources and environments such as those protected by Steep Rock Association is a basic human necessity for health and wellbeing. Being able to help provide the community with these spaces for outdoor recreation was very valuable. From installing new garden bed frames in Judea Garden to helping facilitate different programs such as the River Recreation event and the Seniors in Steep Rock hike, there were many opportunities to serve the community. One such opportunity came in the form of assisting the Youth Conservation Corps program to overhaul the StoryWalk in Macricostas Preserve. The existing posts were painted, numbered, and a new story was laminated and installed into the posts.

Each day of working as Steep Rock’s first Van Sinderen Conservationist held a new learning experience. Steep Rock staff were enthusiastic to help whenever I had questions and were also incredibly welcoming; I felt as though the work I was doing, however simple, was really making a difference in helping them to maintain the preserves. It has ignited my passion for conservation, and I hope to be able to secure a position in the conservation field post-graduation.

The Van Sinderen Internship was made possible by the Washington Scholarship Fund.

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