LEAF interns were at TNC this summer

For the seventh year in a row, the Nature Conservancy in Bath County hosted four young women who are Environmental Leaders of the Future. The LEAF interns were all from Louisville, Kentucky this summer. They spent time on work-projects both on TNC land, and also this year, in a nearby state park. In this first report, local Nature Conservancy staff and the LEAF mentor give their impressions of this year’s experience. Laurel and Zoe, who work in the Allegheny Highlands TNC program both commented on the four students level of commitment and enthusiasm.

“Every single one of them was motivated and had a really good work ethic every day of the job. It was really neat to see them develop the use for tools, but also their team dynamics, and their confidence and comfort with each other, and really getting their communication to a level of high functionality. Last year, three of four of the interns that participated here, went on to raise two thousand dollars to do a project in New York State for coastline resiliency. So I think that speaks to the program, that we really are making a difference in their lives, and also the environment.”

**When I asked Zoe what one of the highlights of the month-long program was for her and the young women, she described a day working with Virginia Tech Masters students on the carnivore study.

“I think they really enjoyed just knowing there are big carnivores out there, and why they’re important. I think the coolest part about that was we had gotten to see the different sized collars they used for bears, bobcats and coyotes; and we had actually done a separate activity with another TNC employee where we were setting up camera traps, and we actually spotted one of the bears that was collared, on the camera trap, so that was just really neat to be able to see that.”

Laurel talked a little more about the multi-year project involving collaboration across the state.

“The carnivore study is being done through Virginia Tech and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The collars are these GPS collars that send little pings back to the students. And they can see the movement of the carnivores, and how they’re using their habitat and interacting with each other. So the site we went to look for predator-prey interactions was an area where the bear that was collared had spent more than thirty minutes, so it seemed like he was doing something, not just travelling. So they go to those sites, and then map it out, and look for even little tiny pieces of deer hair, and little bits of bone.”

** Not only did the LEAF interns get some practice in these more applied science areas of environmental studies, they also had recreational opportunities like rafting or horseback riding which they had never tried before. Jennifer, their mentor saw this first hand.

“They were willing to try anything. They dove underwater to get some of the mussel species we were looking at- like just no fear in the work area or in recreation. So that was really cool to see for me.”

Until I next get to share insights and experiences, from the four LEAF interns themselves, Laurel from the Nature Conservancy shared one more thing. “Lastly, I would really like to thank all of our partners for hosting workdays. The students got to work with Department of Conservation and Recreation down at Douthat State park doing some trail maintenance, the Virginia Tech students were fantastic; we also went to Berrydale Farm, and we got a lot of work done.”

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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