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Summer interns recognized across Texas
At the very tip of South Texas in Estero Llano Grande State Park, Christopher Sandoval stands at a trail head waiting for visitors. Sandoval is interning this summer with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
A Wildlife Science sophomore at Texas A&M, Sandoval has spent the summer immersed in park operations including natural resource interpretation, habitat management and grounds maintenance.
“Chris’s education and passion for nature has combined with his bilingual ability and made him a valuable asset to our park,” said Kyle O’Haver, Natural Resource Specialist at Estero Llano Grande State Park and World Birding Center.
Each summer TPWD employs dozens of seasonal interns throughout the state parks system. These interns gain valuable experiences in state park operations from trail work to grant writing. Internships are offered to undergraduate and graduate students in majors like recreation management and wildlife science, but also to students in majors such as marketing and geographical information sciences.
When he isn’t interacting with visitors or clearing brush, Sandoval works on park improvement projects. He aided in improving a feeding station and recently wrote a proposal for a site water feature. Both of these projects, says Sandoval’s supervisor, will be long-lasting additions to Estero Llano.
“These are changes to the park that he can come back and see the personal effect he has made in our park,” said O’Haver.
Farther north, graduate intern Lindsay Sansom sits down in her Austin headquarters office, ready to analyze another digital map layer. Sansom is working to create a statewide inventory of geospatial data for all publically accessible recreation and conservation lands in Texas.
The project is a part of the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. When complete the project could bring federal dollars to Texas through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. In addition to assisting in the creation of digital maps, Sansom is also analyzing the plan’s economic impact and assisting in technical writing and editing for the project.
A third generation Texan and Hill Country native, Sansom is currently working on her master’s in international relations and environmental policy at Boston University.
“Overall, this has been the most productive and enjoyable internship that I have ever held,” said Sansom. “I have met some truly amazing people here and the contacts that I’ve made, in addition to the professional experience I’ve gained, will be invaluable for me as I move forward.”
Her thesis covers trans-boundary aquifers, water scarcity issues and groundwater policy. Sansom plans to focus on the Hueco Bolson, an aquifer under Texas, New Mexico and Mexico. The aquifer is the primary groundwater source for Ciudad Juarez and El Paso.
A few zip codes above headquarters nestled in the pines and cedar trees of East Texas, Courtney Speer’s newly-scouted primitive camping sites along the Cedar Hill State Park’s Duck Pond Trail are waiting for visitors.
Speer completed her summer internship this week, having logged 400 hours of service welcoming campers, doing ride-a longs both on land and water with state park police and game wardens, working with children’s programs and giving interpretive tours of the park.
She participated in a park operations workshop at Dinosaur Valley State Park where she and other interns and trainees learned about park business while taking part in track cleanups and mountain biking rides.
“Courtney’s main project at CHSP this summer was to organize designated primitive campsites on our Duck Pond Trail,” said Cedar Hill Assistant Superintendent Robert Rinn. “Courtney scouted out potential campsites and obtained all necessary clearances to move forward with opening up the news sites. She also marked the trail and all campsites within with carsonite markers. She was a great help during her 400 hours with us and we hope she decides to come back to the Department when she finishes school.”
Speer attends Texas A&M as a senior recreation parks and tourism major. Rinn says she was chosen for the internship because of her love of the outdoors and her passion for wanting to work in the parks.
To apply for a state parks or other TPWD internship visit the Student Summer Internship Program informational site at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/business/jobs/summer_internships/index.phtml. Applications for the summer 2012 program will be available in September.
For information on state park volunteering in your community, visit the volunteer opportunities page at: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/involved/volunteer/spdest/.
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