Matthew Baird
5/20/04
Environmental Studies 220

 

I worked with the United States Forest Service as an intern developing a pamphlet for the Native Plant Society demonstration area outside of the Blue Mountain Humane Society's new office. My objectives were to identify all the native plant species that were planted in spring 2003 by common and scientific name. I then collected information on the plants, prepared a brief summary of each and then organized a pamphlet, including pictures, to be distributed from the humane society office.

I was given a couple lists containing most of the native plants planted by the Native Plant Society last spring from Betsy Kaiser. She told me that she would try and gather a more complete list in the near future. Up until this point I have just done research on the plants listed, trying to gather what is necessary and then condense it down into something that will fit nicely into a pamphlet. I have also researched why native plant species are important because I think it adds to the pamphlet.

It turned out that much of my original list was not specific enough or inaccurate and some of the plants had died during the harsh winter. It turned out that Betsy and I had to go to the site to complete the plant list. Unfortunately that meant that we had to wait until the plants were blooming in April. Later we had a botanist come and identify all the plants for us. Betsy and I discovered that we are not very good at plant identification down to the species level. I had to do some of my research over again because I had previously done it on the wrong plants, hence why this report is late in coming. In a similar internship in the future it would be very prudent to get the plants identified by a professional the first time. It would also be wise to get them identified as early as possible because many of the plants don't sprout until the middle of spring. This can result in a back loading of a lot of the work for the internship, such as my situation, and it would be helpful to do as much as you can in the beginning of the semester.

For the most part I have been working individually because I have found my internship to be quite straight forward and self explanatory, though I ended up having to get some help at the USFS office Microsoft Publisher because Whitman doesn't have that program.. The difficulty that I am finding with working individually is scheduling time for me to get work done and then getting around to doing it. This has been a valuable lesson in time management and self motivation, a lesson I've been learning throughout college, and something I should master by the time I hit the real world. The time commitment is but a few hours a week and not difficult too do.

The internship had a slow start because I couldn't really do much with the limited plant lists I was originally given. I also felt I ended up wasting a lot of time researching plants not in the garden because of poor identification skills. I also felt that the internship was not very involved. I did nearly all of the work on my own time and on campus. My only contact throughout was Betsy at USFS and even then I didn't spend much time at the office and never really got a feel for what it would be like working for such a federal agency. I was almost glad that Whitman doesn't have Microsoft Publisher so that I could spend a few hours at the office and at least experience the work environment. In future internships it would be useful to try to incorporate more methods of interaction with the agency.

I have found my research to be personally rewarding. Not only does it further my interest in plants but I feel it is also preparing me for my senior research on the invasive species Japanese Knotweed. I am educating myself on what it is I am trying to protect from Japanese Knotweed and why it is important that I do so. I also accomplished the objectives I set for myself at the beginning of the semester. I got the plants identified and researched brief histories on each plant and on the demonstration area itself. I wasn't able to include pictures of each plant due to their large number and the maps won't fit in the pamphlet either. But I helped Betsy develop the maps and we will include them on a separate sheet to be distributed with the pamphlet. Finally I learned how to use Microsoft Publisher and produced a native plant species pamphlet. I hope to have created a useful tool in educating the community on the importance of native plant species, so that they may better appreciate their surrounding environment, which is often taken for granted.