Environmental Internship 220
Final Report
December 10, 2004
Morgan Zeliff

 

List of Contents

 

Internship Description

Sponsor

Goals and Objectives

Reflections

Experience and learning

Logistics

Successes

Recommendations for the Future

Key Contacts

 

Internship Description

Mapping potential conservation areas for the Blue Mountain Land Trust. To gather and combine maps showing important soils, critical areas, species of concern, protected areas, and establish future priority protection areas.

 

Sponsor

Beth Thiel, Director of Blue Mountain Land Trust

 

Goals and Objectives

My goals and objectives have changed and morphed the further along that I go through the semester, but overall they have been steered by one broad objective. This objective is to create an organized and accessible set of data that will enable the Blue Mountain Land Trust to have a more visual idea of where to focus their energies.

My goals for this internship include: to organize a clear list of the resources in the community that can provide the Blue Mountain Land Trust with the mapping information they need; and to create at least one map (whether that be of critical areas, prime soils, wetlands, or land ownership, it does not matter which because all of these are equally important). A few of my more minor goals are to work at least four hours per week on the internship, to keep consistent contact with Beth Theil (at least one email per week) and to set weekly goals that I write out in my log so that I stay on top of my work.

This internship has inspired some personal goals for the future, meaning beyond this semester. These goals are to at least partially learn how to use the computerized mapping system (specifically Arch View GIS), to establish a good working relationship with the Blue Mountain Land Trust so that I may be able to return to this sort of work as a senior and possibly beyond, to gain a larger understanding of the way in which the Blue Mountain Land Trust works as an organization (how they are successful at doing what they do), and to learn how to better use the resources available to me within my own community.

 

Reflections

When I first read the description, as presented above, I envisioned quite a different type of work than I am actually doing. The description gave me the impression that I was going to actually be making the maps myself. This idea excited me, but scared me as well. I was excited because I thought it sounded fun and challenging and I wanted to use the skills that I have learned in geology, biology and chemistry courses to map and identify actual geologic and biotic features. I was scared too though because I was fully aware that actually mapping these things would in fact require much more knowledge and experience than I, myself contain. So I guess it was fortunate and unfortunate at the same time when it turned out that my first impression was incorrect.

After my first meeting with Beth Thiel, my sponsor, I discovered that her expectations for me where more along the lines of gathering the scientific data that was already out there for Blue Mountain Land Trust. As much fun as work in the field would have been I feel as if I will not only be able to learn a lot of different skills form this sort of work, but also that I will be much more effective then if I had been expected to actually create maps. After meeting with Beth I was very excited to begin my work and I honestly wish that I could devote at least twenty hours a week to this job. Unfortunately, I can only commit to four, but in the future I am already planning to further help the Blue Mountain Land Trust.

During the first few weeks, until their board meeting, I worked mostly on my own. This was a challenge and I don't feel as if I got a whole lot of work done in these weeks. This is because I was (and still am) learning what it is that the BMLT actually could use and where to get the information. The board meeting was helpful in giving me a better sense of what they really wanted, but it discouraged and overwhelmed me at the same time. My negative reaction came from the feeling that I could not possibly give them what they wanted from me. What they really want, and need, is a set of digitalized maps containing conservation data such as soils, wetlands, critical areas, and maps outlining the property boundaries and owners for all of Walla Walla County and for part of some counties in Oregon. I would really like to be able to get this to them, but I know that it will take more expertise and time than I have. Fortunately, I was able to figure this out quickly and express these concerns to Beth, who agreed with me and reassured me by pulling my focus back to the original goals of obtaining more hard copy type data and finding out what is available already in the community.

By the mid-point in the semester I still had a lot of work to do. I felt that I had a little better idea of what that work might be, but still not a complete idea. I think my most positive reflection at that time was that regardless of whether I was able to help the Blue Mountain Land Trust in any significant way or not, I myself was learning an extremely large amount of useful skills and information that would be helpful to me in the future, in any path I choose.

Now, at the end of the semester, I have a similar view, but also with the knowledge that the work I have done will have a significant impact on the BMLT if this internship is repeated. I felt more successful during the latter part of the semester because I reached some of the goals of delivering the BMLT with an actual set of data as well as increasing the contact list and improving my vision of where and how to go next with this internship.

I feel that I was able to somewhat meet my goal of delivering the BMLT an actual set of data. I did this in the form of digitalized aerial photos of the Walla Walla area from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 2002. Even though I count this as a success I wish I could have done so much more. The BMLT will possibly be able to use these maps to compare the differences in the land between the past and present. But unfortunately that might even be hard because the older digital photos are of the urban Walla Walla area and the 2002 photos are just of the Walla Walla River . I don't know if either really overlap much.

The list of contacts is my only other somewhat concrete success besides the aerial photos. It appears at first to be quite long, but in reality many of the contacts are not going to be able to provide the BMLT with much more than the Army Corps of Engineers did with the aerial photos until the BMLT obtains the technology capable of using GIS (Geographic Information System). It is a computer system used to map anything that can possibly be mapped. This is helpful for my internship for obvious reasons, but as it turns out it is also very advantageous for any geologic school and for many jobs including conservation work. This is a major point that I came to realize: that all of the data and maps are out there, the BMLT just doesn't yet have the technology capable of obtaining it. I will address this issue further in my section on Recommendations for the Future.

I would also like to reflect on the logistical aspect of this internship. Perhaps one of the more frustrating parts of this internship for me was that once I had built a list of contacts, and then began to contact each of them, very few responded to me. I assume that the lack of responses was mostly because they people I contacted are extremely busy and simply don't respond to every email they get from random community members asking them for their help. I believe this because I found that by being persistent and a little creative I could get them to respond and that once they did, they actually really did want to help.

During the latter half of the semester I also became more involved in Whitman's own GIS class. At first, I thought that I would be able to learn enough to possibly start working on obtaining GIS data for the BMLT. I quickly learned that this would not be possible. The BMLT, like I have stated before, does not have the technology to use this mapping system. I am glad that I went to this class the number of times that I did so I could learn what GIS is and a few minor ways in which it can be used. Basically I feel as if I learned enough to figure out that I don't really know anything about it at all, but also that I should learn more. It convinced me that for future opportunities and successes I would be very smart to take an entire class or more on GIS. As for the BMLT, it convinced me that they really need to look into getting the technology to use it.

For the future, I would recommend that this internship be taken up by someone who is truly willing to put the time and energy into it as it needs. The minimum of four hours a week is really a minimum because the work and help that a student could provide could easily add up to twenty hours a week. But an unmotivated and disinterested person would probably have a hard time even finding a few hours of work to do each week.

I would recommend this internship to anyone with interest in networking with real conservation groups and people in the community. Also it has been a great way to see how a non-profit conservation organization really works.

 

Experience and learning

I can not believe how much value this internship has had for me. This internship has truly brought me a “real world” experience. Every step along the way, from the beginning when I contacted Beth Theil, to investigating the resources here at Whitman, to going to the board meeting, to contacting people and organizations within the community, and to meeting with those people and organizations, I have gained something of value. The most valuable things that I have learned have been about the inner-workings of a non-profit environmental organization and how to find and use the resources here in the community to meet my goals involved in helping this environmental organization. These two things are of particular value to me because I hope to go into this sort of work in the future. Even if I do not work with the Blue Mountain Land Trust, or even in Walla Walla , I believe these skills can be transferred and related to any number of environmental careers across the world.

This internship has brought to my awareness the GIS technology, and if I were to learn how to use it, it would help me not only with the goals of the internship, but would also help me with future academic as well as possibly career pursuits.

 

 

Logistics

The logistics of this internship are not very demanding. Fortunately, my sponsor and main contact lives very close to campus. Also the internet has made correspondence and contacting others very simple, convenient and fast. I have included all of the emails of importance in my internship log. At first, most of the work I did was on my own and I was able to do it here at Whitman, using the library, on the internet or at home using the phone book. I am now going more into the community and meeting with other organizations, such as the County of Walla Walla , and this involves scheduling a meeting in which Beth and myself can both go.

The most logistically difficult part of this internship is the fact that everyone working in and for this organization and in this line of work is extremely busy. Finding time when Beth and I could meet, let alone, Beth, another person from the community, and I could meet, was extremely difficult. Until, though, I or whoever is the intern for this position, has the knowledge that Beth has of the BMLT, it's goals, capabilities and specific necessities, it is usually necessary for the three parties to meet. I also had difficulties getting responses from several of the members and organizations in the communities which I contacted by phone and email. I assume this was mostly because those people or organizations just don't have an endless amount of time to respond to each and every individual that contacts them with questions. I have included the specifics of the difficulties in the Notes section of the contacts list so that hopefully the future intern will be more successful.

 

Successes

I feel that my largest successes are in obtaining digital copies of aerial photos for the BMLT, discovering the resources here in the Walla Walla community, the compilation of those resources into the list of contacts, and the personal knowledge that I will take away from the experience.

The digital copies of the aerial photos are a success because my goal was to provide the BMLT with at least one physical or digital map or set of data. These aerial photos can hopefully be used to observe the changes to the land in the Walla Walla area over the past 50, 60, 70 years. Unfortunately, there is not a large amount of overlap between the photos from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and from 2002. Also, I recognize that this amount of data will only provide a minimal amount of help for the BMLT in the long run, but every little bit helps.

For the BMLT and for myself I feel that the discovery of the different resources here in the community as well as the compilation of those resources in to the contact list is the largest concrete success. Not only will the BMLT now have a copy and contact list, but so will whoever takes over this internship in the future and so will I when I pick this back up next fall or for other projects I may work on in the future.

I feel as if I have also been successful at motivating myself to do my own work, which can be difficult when you don't have anyone holding you accountable for your work. I have also been successful in the sense of gaining real world experience. I never could have learned the things that I have learned in a classroom.

As for the minor goals that I had set for myself which included working at least four hours per week on this internship, keeping in consistent contact with Beth Theil (at least one email per week) and setting weekly goals, I feel that I was 100% successful. By completing these goals I believe that I was able to accomplish a lot more by making myself accountable at more frequent intervals than just the middle and end of the semester.

The personal future goals that I set for myself which included at least partially learning how to use GIS, establishing a good working relationship with the BMLT, gaining a larger understanding of the way in which the BMLT works as an organization, and learning how to better use the resources available to me, I was also very successful. I am still pursing these goals though because I can always improve in these areas and I know that it will take years before I am an expert in any one.

As for helping the greater Walla Walla community, I do not have any specific examples yet, but I am certain that by helping the Blue Mountain Land Trust, I am benefiting the community indirectly. By gathering maps for the Blue Mountain Land Trust, they will conversely be able to have a better visualization of the areas within the county in which they should focus their energies of protecting. Hopefully, my work will cut down on the amount of work that they will have to do to assess the most up to date biotic, geologic and environmental importance of the land which they are dealing with. I think that this internship really is about helping an organization that is itself a help to the community rather than an internship in which my work directly benefits the community.

 

Key Contacts

 

Name Organization/Title Phone Email Address Contacted? When?   Notes
Beth Theil BMLT/Director 525-3136 bmlt@bmi.net 533 Pleasant St. yes throughout Sponsor of the internship as well as extremely useful resource. Ask her about information on the Alliance.
Cathy Utenberg Walla Walla County- head of GIS   unknown, Beth will have it   yes 10/19/2004, tried afterward but was unsuccesful Extremely knowlegeable on the data/maps available within community. She seems like one of the best contacts content wise, but she is extremely hard to get ahold of.
John Winters Whitman Geology Professor, GIS instructor   winterj@whitman.edu   yes 10/20/2004 knowledgeable on Whitman's resources, teaching GIS here. You may want to speak with him about Whitman's GIS capabilities because they are continually expanding.
Coleen McFarland Whitmans Archivist   mcfarlcd@whitman.edu   yes 9/30/2004, and in November several times ariel photos and plat maps (both from the 50's and before) Very willing to help. I don't know how much more the BMLT needs aerial photos though
Natural Resource Conservation Service   522-6340   on Dalles Military Rd yes 10/18/2004 www.or.nrcs.usda.gov/pnw_soil/wa_reports.html --for soils. It could be beneficial to find out who their specific mapping person is.
WA Department of Fish and Wildlife----- Mark Grandstaff, John Ardews Grandstaff- Asst Regional Habitat Project Manager John Ardews is the Regional Director in Eastern Washington Grandstaff 527-4141 Ardews 509-456-4082 grandmht@dfw.wa.gov teamspokane@dfw.wa.gov the regional office is: 8702 N. Division St., Spokane, WA 99218 Grandstaff-yes Ardews-no November and Grandstaff did email me back I contacted Grandstaff about aerial photo copies and he could possibly be helpful in that area. Ardews, or the Regional office in general may be helpful for indentifying endangered and threatened species and/or habitats in the area.
John Cole board member of BMLT, professor and director at Walla Walla College 527-2078 colejo@wwc.edu   yes in September offered to help with GIS stuff. I would contact him again once you get a clear idea of your goals for the semester because he will be helpful in getting GIS for the BMLT. Also, he offered to teach me what he knows about the program, so you could maybe do the same.
Carl Scheeler board member of BMLT, Wildlife Program Manager for Confederated Tribes (541) 966-2395 carlscheeler@ctuir.com   yes in September offered to help with GIS stuff, the tribes sound as if they have a multitude of layers, I need to investigate further
Eric Phifer ? Whit Grad who has helped BMLT previously 938-7086     attempted 10/18/2004 knowledgeable on GIS, has access to GIS system, layers
Mike Denny Forest Service Home- 529-0080     yes   Beth has told me he has extensive knowledge on birds, but he did not return my phone call. It would probably be best to find out his work phone or email.
Army Corps of Engineers - Bob Myers and Doug Smith Myers is in charge of mapping and Smith is the GIS manager 527-7020, Myers- 527-7627, Smith 527-7410   201 N 3rd Ave in Walla Walla yes   I got the 2002 aerial photos from Bob Myers. He was very helpful. Both of these people would be good to contact and investigate as a resource
WW County Resource Land Committee         no   Need to look into
Audobon Society         no   will possibly have important bird info
Mary Meeker ex board member of BMLT       no   Beth listed her as a possible resource
Dept. of Transportation         no   Beth listed them as a possible resource
WA Department of Fish and Wildlife Requesting Maps and Digital Info Website       no 11/30/2004 http://www.wdfw.wa.gov/hab/release.htm This looks like it may be one of the most helpful of all the sites I've found.
WA State Department of Natural Resources             this website has lots of ESRI's and other GIS maps that you can download. Good once BMLT gets GIS technology http://www3.wadnr.gov/dnrapp6/dataweb/dmmatrix.html
WA Department of Fish and Wildlife             this website has the priority habitats and species lists. wdfw.wa.gov/hab/phshabs.htm
Dept. of Ecology             this is their GIS webpage. It also has a lot of links to other governmental websites with GIS. Definently look at this website. www.ecy.wa.gov/services/gis/data/data.htm#wria

 

 

Recommendations for the Future

I am going to use this section to write out my recommendations that I would give to any future student taking on this internship. I hope that by doing this the student will be able to pick up where I have left off, or at least close, because it really does take the entire semester to just gain the base of information that is needed to truly start obtaining useful data for the BMLT. I would recommend that if the student read nothing else of this report, that they read this section.

My first recommendation is to look over the contact list and read each note that I have left about each contact. You will not need to contact each person on the list, but it will give you a starting off point. Beth Theil also spoke of another group that works in Oregon and Washington helping non-profit land trust organizations that I have not included in the contact list and I do not know their exact name (Beth Theil referred to them as The Alliance). I, unfortunately, did not learn of this group until my final meeting with Beth when she spoke of the organizations potential ability to be an extremely large amount of help in the mapping area because it already has a significant amount of maps and it wants to share them with organizations like the BMLT.

My second recommendation is that as you go over the list and as you contact these resources and others, to keep the list updated. Write down every possible lead and try it. You never know what you might find.

My third recommendation is to speak with the BMLT about obtaining the technology needed to use GIS. Maybe for the next few semesters this internship could even turn its focus more to this because I think that in the long run the BMLT will be most helped if they obtain this technology. Look into the prices and methods of obtaining this technology. Also investigate avenues of raising the money to make it possible. Sort of along the same lines of this recommendation, is also to actually learn about GIS, what it is, how to use it, where it is available in the community (although some of this is already on the contact list), and how to get different maps for the BMLT. Whitman will be offering a class on it in the Fall of 2005 the is combined with a class at the Community College and I would recommend possibly taking this class.

A fourth recommendation is to further investigate the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's map and data order form which I have included in the report. I found this at the very end of the semester and brought it to Beth Theil. She told me that she had seen it before, but just had not had the time to really look into it.

My final recommendation is that to be persistent when trying to contact other people or organizations in the community. If they don't respond the first time, try again. If they don't respond the second time, try again. If they don't respond the third time, try again, just in a different way. Perhaps, instead of email or phone calls, go directly to the person or organization. Or, increase your frequency so that they will see that you really are interested in getting their help. For the most part, I have found the individuals and organizations alike to be very helpful and supportive once you have actually got them there with you, in the flesh. Most often, they're not purposefully avoiding you, they just have too much on their plate (sound familiar Whitman student?) and you get lost in the shuffle and forgotten unless you do something that catches their attention.