Meet Chris Olsted, 2020 VetsWork AmeriCorps Intern!

Hello! I’m here because I wanted a fun, educational way to give my career in anthropology a kick-start. I have always been an extremely curious and outgoing person, even as a child. My father was in the Army, and though we happily lived off base, his ongoing reassignments to different states meant that I had to learn to adapt fast, make friends fast, and learn new environments quickly. While I was a huge fan of ecology, biology, and especially herpetology (reptiles) and bugs, I was drawn into archaeology through a combination of urban exploration and my dad’s NatGeo subscription. Since my friends and I tended to prefer the outdoors, we visited places that were forgotten, abandoned, or reclaimed by nature. It was a risk, but we always stayed as safe as possible, and we respected our ‘job site’ by taking only pictures, and leaving only footprints. As my love for exploration grew, I contributed to a growing online community, sharing stories and finding out about new places to explore. On one foray, we found some evidence of a ghost town in the Pine Barrens of NJ, and the research I did into the town’s history was just as rewarding as the pictures and scant artifacts we recovered. Piecing together real human experiences from the past was better than any puzzle or video game! I was heartbroken when those sites were closed down. They represented a wealth of real information about the places we explored, and the lost stories of the people who lived there.

My later experiences running a small science museum while in college also helped to teach me to work well with kids. I had already developed a talent for breaking down complex concepts ‘Barney style’, thanks to my time in the Marines. Then, I changed my entire approach to studying. I rewired myself to learn new subjects as if I had to teach them to a 5-year old. It seems silly, but it was effective! I got amazing feedback from parents of kids who visited my museum, or who came with me on one of my kayak tours. Some kids got way too excited and started pestering their parents with too many questions, just like I did as a kid (and still do!). Igniting that love of learning in a kid is one of those things that makes any amount of effort and study feel worthwhile, and so I’m interested in museum studies or education.

VetsWork: Heritage Work on the Monongahela National Forest

Nathan DameronThe summer field season has been a blur of activity, and although I have periodically checked up on other blogs, composing my next contribution to the Mt. Adams blog has been one of the furthest things from my mind.  In consideration of these facts, I present to you a photo blog of heritage work on the Monongahela National Forest.

Deteriorating historic infrastructure. West Virginia has always been a “resource extraction” state, and many buildings tell the tale of past boom times.

Deteriorating historic infrastructure. West Virginia has always been a “resource extraction” state, and many buildings tell the tale of past boom times.

Multiple civil war forts provide glimpses back in time

Multiple civil war forts provide glimpses back in time.

Limestone and Sandstone have created multiple rock shelters on the Monongahela. Shown here is the deluxe two level variety. These are commonly associated with pre-historic habitation.

Limestone and Sandstone have created multiple rock shelters on the Monongahela. Shown here is the deluxe two level variety.  These are commonly associated with pre-historic habitation.

We had the fortune of being trained by HistoriCorps as part of a project to restore an old cabin on the forest.

We had the fortune of being trained by HistoriCorps as part of a project to restore an old cabin on the forest.

I made this new window ledge. One of many “firsts” for me on the cabin restoration project.

I made this new window ledge. One of many “firsts” for me on the cabin restoration project.

Can you spot the preservation opportunity?

Can you spot the preservation opportunity?

Positive feedback when we cut back the overgrown vegetation at this site was immediate. We received multiple visitors while we worked.

Positive feedback when we cut back the overgrown vegetation at this site was immediate. We received multiple visitors while we worked.

The final photos are before and after shots of a project I had the opportunity of leading.  Although it’s nearly impossible to choose a favorite project of the summer, this vegetation cleanup project was hands down the most fulfilling.  Not only did this put to active use the chainsaw training I had received earlier in the summer, it also provided a unique partnership opportunity with a group that has opposed other aspects of forest service work in the region.

In other words, we did not let our difference of opinions preclude us from working together on common goals.  Although this is wisdom that can always bear repeating, it seems even timelier given the current political climate in the country, and was definitely heartening to me.  Now with just over three months left in my internship, it’s time to see about turning these experiences into a job.

A regional meeting with other VetsWork interns included a train ride!

A regional meeting with other VetsWork interns included a train ride!

partner-logo-banner-e1433527999682