Lucinda, Emily, Joan and Rebecca weren’t quite sure what to expect when they started their four-week internship in Wisconsin, but they knew it would be different from home in New York.
“I did not expect to fall into sinkholes full of mud in the marsh or learn so much about plants,” said Emily. “This is a new experience for me, and I like the way things are turning out.”
“I didn’t expect work to be so much fun. There’s so much to learn, and everyone knows so much,” said Joan.
The young women, who attend environmental high schools in New York City, are part of The Nature Conservancy’s Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program. LEAF is an ambitious effort, supported by the Toyota USA Foundation, to empower the next generation of conservation leaders and equip them with the skills and knowledge to address our world’s most pressing environmental challenges.
Together with their mentor Marissa Maggio, a high school teacher in New York City, the LEAF interns joined Wisconsin high school interns Catherine, Kelly, Ellen and Spencer to help the Conservancy manage its lands and waters at Lulu Lake, Crooked Creek and other preserves in the Mukwonago River watershed.
The Wisconsin high school students are part of the Conservancy’s local summer internship program, which has been providing hands-on conservation skills and experience for the past 15 years. View our slideshow to meet all eight interns.
For four weeks, the interns helped build a boat dock at Lulu Lake, inventory wetland plants and remove non-native invasive plants like Eurasian water-milfoil that threaten native plants and wildlife. The visited other Conservancy projects in the Baraboo Hills and Door County and toured the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Carroll University to learn more about potential careers in conservation.
Along the way, they learned a lot about nature and themselves.
“Before this experience, I thought nature was scary and mysterious, but very pretty,” said Lucinda. “Now that I’ve had the experience, I think nature is still mysterious, but also think things that happen in nature are miraculous.”
“Working for The Nature Conservancy has taught me how important it is to conserve nature and how important it is to be in nature and see it,” said Rebecca.
“LEAF is something I will never regret getting involved in,” said Emily. “This program has shaped me to become a stronger individual—to be a leader and continue learning. I know when I leave here I will continue to be active in environmental work.”