Lake County residents are among Chicago Botanic Garden Conservation and Land Management interns working on protected federal lands across the United States this summer in unique fieldwork programs.
The interns, all college graduates with degrees in science fields and some with advanced degrees, bring a unique set of skills and enthusiasm to the growing fields of restoration, conservation and land management.
Elizabeth Kaufman of Wauconda is working with the Bureau of Land Management, Uncompahgre Field Office, in Montrose, Colorado, as a part of her graduate studies at Northwestern University/Chicago Botanic Garden in Land Management and Conservation.
"I am working as the 2015 project lead collecting data for the Gunnison sage-grouse habitat assessment (the species was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in November of 2014), and will be authoring a final report utilizing the data collected over the past two months that will guide Gunnison sage-grouse management and conservation efforts for the BLM Uncompahgre Field Office," she said.
Kaufman will also be evaluating and documenting the effects of actions related to threatened, endangered and sensitive botanical resources and will be monitoring the endangered clay-loving wild buckwheat and the threatened Colorado hookless cactus populations.
Justin Chappelle of Lake Zurich is working on three types of projects in Wenatchee, Washington, for the Bureau of Land Management.
The main project was golden eagle monitoring.
"We would go to a nesting site and see if there was any nesting activity or any eaglets present in the nest," he said.
"Our second project was to monitor rodent populations such as the pygmy rabbit and the Washington ground squirrel," he added.
The third project was to monitor and record locations of invasive plants.
Alec Latuszek of Grayslake is working for the bureau in Taos, New Mexico, with a focus on the Seeds of Success program.
"We have completed seven collections so far and have sent the seed off to the plant materials center in Bend, Oregon. In addition to collecting, I have spent lots of time scouting for possible collection sites. In doing so, I have greatly improved my skills in plant identification," he said.
He also has been involved in a rare plant survey in which several populations of the milkvetch were found and their locations have been entered into databases for future reference.
Andrii Zaiats of Lake Zurich and Jessica Mikenas of Wauconda are working for the U.S. Geological Survey in Henderson, Nevada.
Interns were selected during a rigorous application process for five-month paid internships apprenticing with staff from federal agencies and conservation-focused nonprofits.
More interns were hired this year than in 2014, bringing the number of participants from 101 to as many as 125. Most interns attended the CLM Training Workshop at the Chicago Botanic Garden during the week of June 8.
Since 2001, the CLM partnership has led to the training, hiring and placement of more than 1,000 interns with agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
This year's interns have been dispatched to 15 states, with 12 participants in the western United States and 34 on the East Coast.
Follow the Conservation and Land Management interns on their blog at clminternship.org/blog.