As a veteran recently separated from active duty it has been a blessing to have found something that connects me to nature. I recently started my internship with the Hoosier National Forest (HNF) through the VetsWork AmeriCorps program as a recreation technician. Within the first month I have had the opportunity to work with many of the HNF employees. Each with their own specialties and set of skills contributing to the better good of the Forest and the people who enjoy the outdoors. I have assisted with the rehabilitation of trails making them more user friendly to the public by installing erosion control rolling dips, ditches and drains. We have taken portions of the trail that have been eroded out by heavy rains and added soil and gravel to level them back out. Also I have had the opportunity be trained in wildland fire management and assisted on prescribed burns as a road guard and smoke watcher. Additionally I have helped with the upkeep of the HNF recreation sites, everything from getting water to our campsites to start off the season, to changing out toilets and removing hazardous trees from the camping areas. Recently I have been able to assist our fisheries biologist by collecting data in aquatic habitats. I learned that by having one culvert that is to small can affect the entire fish population on the other side of the stream. We sampled many different streams collecting various fish species then measured, weighed and counted each kind. I grew up close to the HNF and to discover how many different types of fish that exist right outside your back door is pretty amazing.
Being able to have this opportunity to work with such an awesome bunch of people that make you feel welcomed is a great feeling.