I have been at my site for about three weeks now and really feel as though I’m learning a lot in this short amount of time! I am working for the Umatilla National Forest and since I am fairly new to the area I knew I was going to have a steep learning curve as to where things are. After I expressed my concern of lack of knowledge, my supervisor was sure to put me on a task to become more familiar with the area while also making the website more “user friendly”. I am currently helping to update the wordage of the directions to cabins, camp sites, trails, sno-parks, etc… Through this I have been able to learn more about the forest’s history, districts, and have a general idea of where things are. I have been using a map of the forest, a list of every trail which equals 16 pages of 48 trails, cabins, etc… (approximately 750 sites!) listed alphabetically and by township and range, googlemaps for plugging in latitudes and longitudes, and the Umatilla National Forest website, all for my references. It has gotten tedious and redundant at times but when I needed a break I would often read more into the history of something that caught my interest and it was enough of a change for a bit to get me motivated to continue.
Since most of the first part of my internship will be Conservation Education Assistant (the latter will be Wilderness Assistance), I had prepared myself to be in an office setting until this summer. I have my own cubicle, complete with computer, and even a phone with my own number! It has been a surprise how much they’ve accommodated me so far just as an intern! The atmosphere is quite casual and relaxed. “Business Casual” is the attire which is jeans and a nicer top. In my opinion, anyplace that allows me to wear jeans and my converse shoes, I’m a happy camper. We can also listen to music throughout the day with headphones which is nice but due to my Coast Guard mindset I still feel like I’m breaking the rules by wearing headphones while working. However, music certainly makes the website updating much more enjoyable. Another thing that I’ve noticed is how connected everyone is. The Staff Officer has invited me to sit in important meetings and conference calls to be able to see different aspects of what the Forest Service does. In an environment that would often be easy to ignore the intern, many have included me in their projects to catch a glimpse into their work life.
After my first week I had been given the extra task to get volunteers from the office to help with upcoming career fairs, conferences, and other public affair opportunities. It’s been quite interesting trying to organize myself to contact and ask for help from the 200+ people whom I don’t know nor know me! Then the other side of it is the questions that I will receive after the mass email is sent and I won’t know how to answer it because I honestly have no idea. Thank goodness people are patient around here! I give them the standard “I don’t know but I can find out and let you know!” I have a feeling I’ll be saying that a lot. I appreciate the responsibility that I’ve been given so far, the lack of micro-tasking, and also the patience of answering my many, many questions that I have had so far and will continue to have! I haven’t experienced a work environment in a long time and am really starting to like it!
I have already participated in a career fair and in the coming weeks I will be helping out at many more. For my first career fair, I was able to work with Jimmye Turner from the Walla Walla District Office at the Walla Walla Community College (say that five times fast!). This was a career fair that focused on recruiting students for natural resource and agriculture related careers. Jimmye was wonderful to meet and work with. He is an ultra-talented and knowledgeable person. He has 30+ years of Forest Service experience under his belt and was able to answer so many questions. He was also creative! He pulled in people to our table by drawing any (and I mean any!) animal in 60 seconds or less! I was impressed as well were the people who would try to trick him! Needless to say, I learned what an axolotl is and he knew it and drew it in under 60 seconds! He was a pleasure to learn from and hope to be able to work with him again in the near future. Future projects that I am also looking forward to include a Fire and Fuels Career Camp. This will be a weekend long camp for high school age students in the area who are interested in a career in wildland firefighting. We also have a youth leadership conference in March that we will be participating in. This will gather 450+ middle and high school students from the area and we will have a session on what the forest service does and steps to take if they are interested in this type of work.
Overall, it has been a wonderful first month of my internship. I am excited to be here and look forward to learning more about my job and other career opportunities in the coming months!