Taylor Williams: Intern-of-All-Trades

Taylor at the 2014 Native Plant Sale. © H. Crosson
Taylor at the 2014 Native Plant Sale. © H. Crosson

My internship with Benton SWCD was an amazing and rewarding opportunity that gave me the skills and experience necessary to begin a career in natural resource outreach and management. At the time, I was a Professional Science Master’s (PSM) student at OSU, and completing an internship was a requirement of my program. On a warm spring day, I gathered up the courage to cold call the district office and was put in touch with Teresa, the district’s Soil Conservationist. We talked about my idea to complete an internship with Benton SWCD, and she was more than willing to get the ball rolling. She mentioned my internship idea to Heath Keirstead, the district’s Youth Education and Invasives Program Coordinator, who had worked with previous interns. After a few meetings with Heath and many emails back and forth, I began my internship in July of 2013!

During my internship, I worked on a variety of projects and spent time with each staff member, many of the Board members, and a couple of the associate staff member. Here is a brief re-cap of some of the projects and programs I worked on. I completed a photo point survey for the Willamette Mainstem Cooperative (WMC) project (pictures above). I assisted in the development and maintenance of the new Benton SWCD website, blog, and uploaded project information for the WMC webpage. I updated and adapted creek tour brochures into new Self-Guided Urban Creek Tour brochures so anyone can print out the brochure and go on past tours. I populated the expansive invasive species database, which was then uploaded to the new website to create a central location for invasive species information.

I completed multiple outreach events, including weed pulls (pictures below) and participated in the annual Salmon Watch field trip program. Watching young kids discover macroinvertebrates in Wiley Creek during Salmon Watch was a really fun and rewarding experience! I also participated in conservation site visits with BSWCD staff and Tom Snyder, the District Conservationist from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). One such site visit was setting up a survey boundary for an EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) oak release survey with Tom. Everything I learned that day made wading through all the poison oak well worth it!

Once my internship was complete, the last hurdle was to complete my report and presentation to receive my Master’s degree.  Here is the Conclusion from my final internship report, “Promoting the Conservation and Management of Natural Resources in Benton County: An Internship Experience with Benton Soil and Water Conservation District”, which I presented to my graduate committee on July 7, 2014.

“The overall objective of this internship was to assist Benton SWCD staff in specific programs and projects and to gain a better understanding of how these programs and projects result in conserving and managing natural resources. Benton SWCD provides guidance and resource assistance to local landowners interested in managing, conserving, or maintaining natural resources on their property. There are many ongoing programs and projects that Benton SWCD contributes to throughout the county.”

The experiences, knowledge, and skills I gained from each person I worked with during my internship was such a gift and I feel so lucky to have had such a wonderful opportunity!