summer 2018 (l to r): Ian, Jorge, Collin, Erna, Lizzie, Gabrielle on the dock at the Lulu Lake Preserve, Wisconsin.
Wisconsin high school interns summer 2018 (l to r): Ian, Jorge, Collin, Erna, Lizzie, Gabrielle on the dock at the Lulu Lake Preserve, Wisconsin. © Michaela Borkovec/TNC

Stories in Wisconsin

Internships Engage Youth in Nature and Conservation

Six young people from Milwaukee, Walworth and Waukesha counties are spending this summer outdoors removing buckthorn and other invasive plants, building a boardwalk, mapping the location of important native plants and removing invasive aquatic plants from rivers and streams.

La Causa Inc., Milwaukee County Parks and The Nature Conservancy are working together to introduce young people to natural resources management and careers in conservation through paid summer internships.

The partnership is part of the Conservancy’s ongoing effort to empower the next generation to tackle the environmental challenges facing the world today.

Meet Our Interns:

Erna von Estorff: I was born in Milwaukee and will be entering my senior year at Brookfield Academy this upcoming fall. I participate in cross country and mock trial, and occasionally volunteer at a cat shelter by my house. With this internship, I am looking forward to learning more about the outdoors and ecosystems. In college I plan on studying courses related to evolutionary biology, evolutionary ecology, biological anthropology, and animal behavior.

Gabrielle Kohn: I was born in Evanston, Illinois but for a majority of my life I have lived in Lake Geneva. I have just recently graduated from Badger High School in Lake Geneva and will be studying Geological Engineering at UW-Madison in the fall. I enjoy travelling, spending time with friends and basically any kind of exercise, especially weightlifting, and hiking and camping. My goal for the future is to pursue a career in renewable energy.

Ian Leather: I live in Milwaukee and will be a senior at Saint Thomas More High School next school year. Outside of school, I volunteer at La Causa Charter School by helping children with their homework and at Bay View Methodist Church to help feed the local homeless. Though I enjoy helping other people, I wish to help nature through this internship, as well as use the time spent outdoors for exercise. After high school, I wish to pursue a career in engineering.

Collin Metzger: I grew up in Palmyra and will be a senior at Waukesha West High School this fall. I am an avid outdoorsman who likes hunting, fishing, bowfishing, trapping and recently knife making. I'm interested in this internship because after high school I plan on going to college to pursue an education in wildlife biology or forestry to become a biologist or forester.

Jorge Montañez: I am from Milwaukee and attend St. Thomas More High School. After I finish high school, I plan to become either a civil or architecture engineer. I enjoy playing baseball, lifting weights, fishing and spending time with my family. Through this job, I hope to learn more about plants, animals in my community; furthermore, I would like to use this knowledge in my future career as an engineer.

Lizzie Stewart: I live in the Big Bend/Mukwonago area and just graduated from Mukwonago High School in May. Some personal interests/hobbies of mine are hammocking, paddle boarding, fishing, running, hiking and scuba diving. After high school, I’m heading out west to Montana State University to major in Environmental Science. I am interested in this internship because I am going to college for this type of job and I’m hoping it will give me some knowledge to bring to Montana with me!

What’s Keeping Our Interns Busy?

The interns spend three days each week working at Nature Conservancy preserves in the Mukwonago River watershed near the towns of Eagle and East Troy, about 40 minutes from Milwaukee, and the other two days working with Milwaukee County Parks staff at Grant Park on Lake Michigan. Their internships combine job training and professional development with educational opportunities in the natural resources field.

Some of the projects interns are involved with include:

  • Utilizing mapping software to pinpoint the location of highly important native plants in Grant Park in Milwaukee.
  • Removing invasive shrubs and trees at Grant Park and using them to redirect park visitors away from unplanned trails that are causing soil erosion on the scenic bluffs and in sensitive ravines adjacent to Lake Michigan.
  • Assisting University of Wisconsin-La Crosse researchers in testing a new technique to help native aquatic plants compete with invasive Eurasian water milfoil at the Conservancy’s Lulu Lake Preserve in Walworth County.
  • Learning to identify native and non-native mussels and clams in the Mukwonago River and assisting Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources scientists with removal of non-native species.
  • Using former Girl Scout tent platforms to build a boardwalk over a wetland at the Conservancy’s Crooked Creek Preserve in Walworth County.

The internships are not all work and no play. Educational opportunities include a tour of the wastewater treatment plant on Jones Island in the Milwaukee harbor, a trip to the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute to learn about organic farming, working with a local beekeeper, and a tour of Cedarburg Bog State Natural Area.

Funding for the internship program is provided by The Nature Conservancy thanks to generous support from Prairie Springs: The Paul Fleckenstein Trust and other contributors.