Through this internship I worked with Durango Nature Studies as well as La Plata Open Space Conservatory. The bulk of this internship took place in the field at the Zinc’s property- a plot of land located near Falls Creek in what many locals know as Hidden Valley. Our mentor, Mike Bienkowski, works with Durango Nature Studies doing ecological studies and educating the public about the environment. We also worked alongside La Plata Open Space, working with GIS technology and mapping. This goes hand in hand with their work to keep the property in its natural state. The property I am speaking of is owned by the Zincs and is currently going up for sale. The current owners of this property would love to have it bought and made public so the trail that leads up to and through it can be accessed without it being their responsibility. They could get much more money for the land if they sold to companies that would develop on it and build a house or two there. This is where the internship came in, our goal was to prove that this land is important for multiple reasons and that developing on it would be the wrong decision.
Throughout the last semester, my peers and I conducted many different and useful types of fieldwork. We began by researching about the land and the different things that are contained in the property. I chose to focus on the biology and ecology of the area. In my early research I looked into the different types of plants and animals that use this land and what they use it for. After going to the site after this research I found that there were three different vegetation zones on the parcel of land. These zones had different vegetation and within that, different ecosystems. Towards the end of this internship we began working more with the GIS programming and I mapped out the 3 different zones. Within these zones I placed markers of where we surveyed the vegetation which correlated to actual lists I wrote by hand. I later went in on the computer and put them all over each other to create an actual map of the zones, plots, and river for future use.
I found that I really, genuinely enjoy studying ecology and working in the field conducting tests. I also really enjoy having an impact on something bigger than myself. I do wish that I could see my work going somewhere and seeing the impact it has on others but I’m not sure that its to that point yet. It is great to know that I have been actively working towards saving something that is important to myself as well as many others around me. The one thing that made this internship hard for me was finding time to commit to it among my classwork, having a job, and extracurricular activities. I wish I was able to be more fully submerged in it and have a better amount of time to commit to it because this is something that I am very interested in and I found it hard to make time for which is quite frankly a bummer. At this point, my heart is in a different place for my future but I will always hold this close to my heart and roots. I may later on decide to delve into this topic more deeply, but I’m not ready to quite yet.
As you can see below, this area is captivating and holds many different types of living organisms which makes it vital to our area.