I feel I have been utilized very well so far in my internship. I think that my tasks have been mutually beneficial to myself, as well as the US Forest Service. I have been assigned tasks that provide me with useful experience, and my tasks also help the Mark Twain National Forest (MTNF) personnel to get some things done. I have been splitting my time between the MTNF Potosi District office and the MTNF Forest Supervisor Office (S.O.) in Rolla. At Potosi I work on a variety of recreation tasks and at the Supervisors Office I focus on engineering projects.
The tasks that I am assigned at the Potosi Office are very physical and hands-on. I get out on the forest and fix stuff. I spent a large part of the spring months getting the recreational sites on the Potosi District ready and operational for the 2016 season. This involves a variety of things from painting to making sure the water and electricity is working properly. I also spent a lot of time learning how the water systems worked at each facility and how to test water to see if it was safe for human consumption.
I spent a considerable amount of time during the early spring assisting the Recreation staff with remediating the winter flood damage caused to the Red Bluff Recreational Site. It was severely damaged and needed a variety of repairs including debris removal, roads cleared and repaired, buildings cleaned, topsoil replacement, grass planting and replacing campfire rings and picnic tables. After all this work we were able to get the Red Bluff Recreational Site opened just one week later than usual which was quicker than anticipated.
After we got the Potosi Recreational Sites opened up, the majority of the summer was spent maintaining the recreational systems and a lot of mowing grass. My experience with repairing mowers came in handy and was much appreciated. I also spent a lot of time replacing old campsite fire rings. This requires the old metal ring to be sawed off the concrete foundation, then the old concrete needs to be broken up and removed. The new concrete is then mixed and poured and the new fire ring is anchored into it. This is extremely labor intensive and the Rec staff said they would not have been able to do nearly as many, if I had not been available. We also removed a lot of things that campers left behind. This included trash (obviously), but also a lot of things that you wouldn’t think of. For example, we removed a couple homemade rope swings from trees.
ROLLA Supervisors Office
I was provided with a long list of projects to do at the Rolla S.O. on my first day. The list was definitely too much to be completed in my 10 month internship. These projects ranged from facilities repairs to researching energy efficient lights for the whole MTNF. I spent the first few months trying to work multiple projects at once. I was able to get somethings done, but most I only got a small start. This was a little frustrating and quite overwhelming, especially since I was often interrupted for various side jobs. After the first few months my supervisor sat me down and had me explain what I had completed. This was a learning experience that my supervisor wanted me to go through. She explained that a Forest Service engineer will get many projects all at once, and they have to prioritize what they work on first and how many at the same time. She wanted me to experience this in a low pressure environment that allowed me to work through how to handle this on my own. She then walked me through my project list and we organized my project list together. Two of the major projects included work on Dams and a lighting efficiency upgrade.
I had to learn a lot about dams and was then tasked with developing a simple, non-engineering dam inspection for each district to perform annually. This had to be simple enough for anyone to be able to do. I also was put in charge of reorganizing and standardizing the dam data filing system. We performed a lot of official Dam Inspections which entailed lots of travel and reporting. This provided me with excellent experience in a technical field that is extremely useful to engineers.
I was tasked with researching exterior and interior lights to increase the MTNF electrical efficiency. I was assigned a budget and challenged to get the most out of it. I am still working this project and I have managed to get the costs down to where we can update the parking lot lights on both the Rolla S.O. and the Potosi District office.
I have also done a lot of other smaller projects at the Rolla S.O. including being put in charge of recycling batteries, fluorescent lights and ballasts. I also hiked a bunch of the trails in the other districts and I gained the experience of seeing how to properly inspect complex bridges. I have been assigned a number of quick fix jobs, like replacing blown lights, repairing broken hinges, driving anchors into parking curbs, replacing the soffits on the S.O. roof, and anything else that pops up.
Overall I have had a very positive experience so far. I hope to get some more projects completed at the S.O. Since the summer is coming to a close, I am hoping to get a more diverse experience at the Potosi District. My supervisor and I have planned to spend a few days each month with each section of the office. I am very pleased that I am doing this and I am having a lot of fun.