Unplugged and Outside: LEAF Blog 2013

Another beautiful summer greets us here in Washington, and with it a new group of LEAF interns set off on a Nature Conservancy adventure. These young women are seeking new adventures and feeding their love of science and nature.

Weeks Three and Four, July 16-26

Wow, what a jam-packed, fun-filled adventure our LEAF team had during their last two weeks! 

While out in the sagelands of eastern Washington, U.S. Forest Service archaeologist Powys Gadd showed them how to spot signs of early Native American life. The team even was featured on the front page of the local newspaper. Read about it here.

Moses Coulee also included two remarkable field study days. The team helped monitor cute, endangered pygmy rabbits with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife scientist, Dr. Penny Becker. Later in the week, they learned how set up nets to gently catch and band wild birds in a field study led by David St. George. Holding a wild bird in your hand is an experience one never forgets! 

The LEAFers also made a trek to the University of Idaho for a college tour, and all agreed it would be one of their choices when college application time comes around. They even squeezed in time for fun, including a float trip on the Wenatchee River on their last weekend. 

But sadly, all good things must come to an end. Although the interns were reluctant to admit it, their LEAF internship concluded on July 26. On the last day, the team delivered a stellar presentation to Nature Conservancy staff in the Seattle office with highlights and reflections on the last month. Remarkably, each student reported that their internship was a life changing experience. As a result, all have decided they want a career working to preserve our environment. Thank you Bailey, Lauren, Riley and Nodia for all your hard work!

View a slideshow of our interns during the last two weeks of their internship.

Week Two - July 8-15

The Washington LEAF team had an exciting second week when they further tested their physical endurance and learned about Pacific Northwest coastal plants. Highlights from the week included a first-time ride on a very cool airboat to Long Island in Willapa Bay, where they learned to identify and remove invasive plants. What a unique way to commute to work! The airboat was so loud that everyone was required to wear funny-looking protective gear.

Next came a super early morning start to help survey marbled murrelets, endangered birds that fly through the forest like little torpedoes to nest in old growth trees. “We had to wake up at 2 a.m. that day and hike in the dark, which is totally different than hiking in the day,” said Riley. It was worth it because marbeled murrelets are most active at sunrise and there were plenty to see!

The week culminated with a climb to the top of Saddle Mountain on the Oregon coast. “We pretty much hiked up a vertical hill to the very top of a mountain,” said Lauren. Led by Nature Conservancy forest manager Kyle Smith, the interns learned to identify the many wildflowers they saw along the trail. The seven-mile steep hike was a major accomplishment that required stamina and perseverance. The reward at the top was the sweeping views up and down the coastline.

There was time in the city too. An important part of a LEAF internship is visits to area colleges. The team toured Portland State University, spurring discussions about college plans and careers in conservation.

All too soon, it was time to leave the tall trees of the coast. On July 15,, the team packed up their gear and along with their mentor, Carol, headed for sage brush country where there was not a single tree in sight. Talk about a change of scene! After getting settled in their new lodgings, aridlands program director Chuck Warner gave a tour of the vastly different Moses Coulee Preserve, including a visit to a cave where Native Americans once lived. The team also learned about the Ice Age floods that carved the massive cliffs of Moses Coulee, and find time to rest up before the next work week begins!

There’s more to come, so stay tuned for updates on more adventures!

View a slideshow of our interns during their second week.

Week One – July 1-7

Hey, heads up everyone! LEAF has launched!   

On July 1 our intrepid team said goodbye to their parents and cell phones and, along with their mentor Carol Brouillette, headed for the southwest corner of the state. During their first week they walked through deep coastal forests past a grove of centuries-old trees at Ellsworth Creek preserve. Can you say “BIG”?  They learned how old growth forests function and why their structures are different than forests used for wood production.  

Later in the week, after a lesson in tree planting, the team helped with  a reforestation project and learned that planting trees on a steep slope with rough terrain isn’t easy. In fact, it’s darn hard work!  But at the end of the project they could proudly claim they had  planted nearly 200 trees! 

To wrap up the week, the team joined Long Beach community members and Conservancy staff for a beach cleanup. Led by the nonprofit group Grassroots Garbage Gang, it was part of an annual event to clean up the miles of shoreline on the Long Beach Peninsula after Fourth of July festivities. Trash can be harmful to birds and marine animals, which sometimes mistake it for food or become tangled in fishing lines. Thanks LEAF, for helping to steward our coasts!

View a slideshow of our interns during their first week.

Meet Washington's 2013 Interns!

Lauren, Bailey, Riley and Nodia are high school students from Tacoma’s Science and Math Institute, who are spending their summer as part of The Nature Conservancy’s LEAF program.

Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future, or LEAF, is all about empowering the next generation of conservation leaders. It’s a Nature Conservancy youth program funded by Toyota USA Foundation that provides paid summer internships for urban students in natural areas across the nation. Each LEAF intern will be spending extended time in nature with the potential to become a powerful environmental leader. This summer sets them on that path.

Follow our four students as they plant trees and search for elusive marbled murrelets at Ellsworth Creek Preserve on Washington’s forested coast, then travel to the vast sagelands and basalt cliffs at Moses Coulee. During the course of their four-week internship, the students will work alongside Nature Conservancy scientists to learn about conservation and restoration activities. Guided by their mentor, they will also learn important life skills such as managing a monthly budget, menu planning and cooking. It’s bound to be a life-changing experience and one that will provide new knowledge, confidence and memories.

Learn more about our 2013 LEAF interns:

  • Lauren Budd, 16, is fascinated by all things marine. She’s learning about boating and navigation through her youth marine club.
  • Bailey Furuyama, 16, isn’t afraid of challenges!  She’s interested in biology and bee keeping, is an avid knitter and wants to eventually study medicine.  
  • Riley Monthy, 16, is already exploring career paths related to science and math. She says, “ Being away from home helps me gain a new perspective on my life.”
  • Nodia Rogers, 16, is the youngest of a large family. Her exposure to nature through school has sparked an interest in the environment. She also wants to study law and likes debate. 

Don’t miss their journey. Stay tuned to this page for updates!


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