Earth Conservation Internship (Spring 2018)

The penultimate week of March marked the start of the first ever Earth Conservation Internship, or ECI for short! This program was developed as a collaboration between the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the US Forest Service, the National Forest Foundation, Arizona Conservation Corps, Youth Career Connect, and Pima County One Stop.

ECI aims to give high school students an opportunity to participate in environmental conservation, develop leadership skills, and learn about career opportunities in environmental science.

Eleven juniors from Sunnyside High School were selected as interns and paired up with a mentor from the Arizona Conservation Corps (AZCC). At the end of the week, each group was asked to write a short description of the events of one day of the week, including highlights that stood out to them, things they learned, or projects they felt proud of. The following is a short description of each day’s events, and the Mentor/Mentee group quotes. Enjoy!

Tuesday – Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum 

On Tuesday the interns enjoyed a day at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum where they met live animals, learned about career fields like Naturalist & Wildlife Biologist, and then met their Arizona Conservation Corps mentors!

Tuesday_Meeting a chuckwalla at the ASDM_Photo by Michelle Dillon
Meeting a chuckwalla! Photo: Michelle Dillon
Tuesday_Meeting a snake at the ASDM_Photo by Michelle Dillon
Meeting a snake! Photo: Michelle Dillon

“On Tuesday it was the beginning of our journey. We began with an intro with animals. We touched three different animals. We also were given an intro to a vast majority of conservation careers. After our intro, we met the Arizona Conservation Corps members and our mentors. We then learned each other’s names. Then they gave us a little lesson on how to use the tools.” 

ECI: Luis Rosas, Noah Rios, Noe Carrasco | AZCC: Trever DucoteLamoni Mora

Wednesday – Mt. Lemmon Biome Exploration & Erosion Work

On Wednesday Interns were ALL over Mt. Lemmon learning about geology, flora and fauna.  We began our work projects with the AZCC by learning about water’s relationship with trails, camped for the first night and met by the fire with Mindi Lehew from the US Forest Service who spoke to the interns about the Pathways program and answered all of their questions about wildfires!

Wednesday_Trail Work to Mitigate Erosion_Mentor with Mentee_Photo by the National Forest Foundation
Erosion testing a trail. Photo: National Forest Foundation

“On Wednesday with our AZCC mentor we re-established the entrance of Box Camp Trail on Mt. Lemmon. We learned that water damage on the trail caused it to have the need to be remodeled to prevent further erosion. It was really eye opening to learn the type of work that is necessary to have a safe and efficient trail. We also learned how to safely set up camp. We had a lot of fun!”

ECI: Sophia Garcia, Krisna Lopez | AZCC: Connor Tipping

Thursday – Mt. Lemmon & The Arizona Trail

On Thursday our trail restoration projects were based out of Molino Basin and Bug Spring. We worked to clear and redefine trails and parking pull-offs in these locations, and to deter the creation of social trails which destroy the natural environment.

Thursday_Trail work ground perspective_Photo by Pima County Communications
Thursday trail work. Photo: Pima County Communications
Thursday_Overview of trailwork_Photo by Pima County Communications
More trailwork. Photo: Pima County Communications
Thursday_Learning about the Microecosystems all around us_Photo by Michelle Dillon
Learning about the microecosystems all around us! Photo: Michelle Dillon

“On Thursday we worked with our AZCC Mentors and focused on the maintenance of one section of the Arizona Trail located at Molino Basin campsite. Being able to work with these mentors exposed us to the various leadership skills necessary to work in conservation.”

ECI: Sharon Vega, Jordan Moreno | AZCC: Sophie Maass

Friday – Sabino Canyon Public Spaces

On Friday the interns and AZCC channeled their efforts into giving the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center a fresh face! They planted prickly-pear cacti around to create new landscaping and to keep visitors from walking in potentially dangerous areas! Then the whole gang met with the Fire Crew for a BBQ lunch at the Firehouse!

Friday_Planting cacti at Sabino Canyon Visitor Center_Photo by Michelle Dillon.jpg
Planting cacti at Sabino Canyon Visitor Center. Photo: Michelle Dillon

“This week was a week of many firsts, however Friday was saturated with them. We worked to conserve our land by planting cactus. Not only did the cactus teach us agricultural skills, it also allowed us to obtain leadership and teamwork abilities. These experiences opened a gateway to bond with our AZCC mentors and US Forest Service employees.”

ECI: Angie Pichardo, Veronica Portillo | AZCC: Michael Frogner

Saturday – Sabino Canyon VS. Buffelgrass / Learning Celebration

Saturday morning was spent working hard pulling buffelgrass in Rattlesnake Canyon. The crew cleared a huge area and after that enjoyed lunch and discussed their week together. To end the week everyone enjoyed a Learning Celebration with families and friends at the Cactus Picnic Area where interns discussed what they gained from the week, and AZCC mentors gave out Awards for the Interns’ hard work! What a fabulous way to end an amazing week!


“On Saturday we met at Sunnyside High School and then traveled back to Sabino Canyon to pull buffelgrass with our AZCC mentors. Buffelgrass is an invasive species that has taken over our desert, bringing intense fire and suffocating our saguaros. By the end of the day we cleared 78,040 square feet of buffelgrass from Rattlesnake Canyon. After that we enjoyed pizza for lunch and also saw a Gila Monster!”

ECI: Alyssa Vildusea, Mya Phelps-Ulloa | AZCC: Anna Fluri

Written by: Alex Wolfe, ASDM Educator

One Comment Add yours

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