The End of an Internship

By: Tessa Lightfoot, 100 Women for the Wild Intern

Tessa Lightfoot
100 Women for the Wild Intern, Tessa Lightfoot, on top of Colorado’s first wildlife overpass!

I am sad to say that my internship with Rocky Mountain Wild has come to an end. On my last trip with Paige, we visited State Highway 9 to check camera traps along the road. A tall wildlife fence extends along both sides of the road, preventing animals from attempting to cross the highly trafficked area. Two overpasses and 5 underpasses have been built, allowing animals to pass safely over or under the highway. I was amazed at the work done on SH9—it is an excellent example of a system that effectively reduces wildlife-vehicle collisions and increases landscape connectivity.

My final journey with RMW was with Megan in the White River National Forest, where we conducted pika surveys. Unfortunately, as I have come to learn, fieldwork is not a perfect process, and there are always some roadblocks along the way. Although stormy weather and lack of accessible field sites set us back a bit over the weekend, I was excited that we were able to conduct opportunistic pika surveys. We took advantage of talus patches close to the road and searched for signs of pika. We listened for the signature pika call, (“eeep!”), looked for fresh hay piles and scat, and kept our eyes peeled for the little critters scurrying through the rocks. Luckily, although my internship with RMW is over, I am still a trained Front Range Pika Patroller! The great thing about citizen science is that you can do it on your own, so I can continue to help with the project throughout this season and into the future.

Overall, the 100 Women for the Wild Internship has shown me the importance of collaboration in the field of conservation. Every project I worked on involved collaboration between multiple organizations or stakeholder groups. Sharing data collection and survey methods with other scientists is efficient and useful when creating projects with multiple contributors. Citizen science, specifically, encourages curious community members to ask questions and get involved.

This summer I realized that citizen science is not only a way to gather data, but also a way to spread knowledge and awareness about ongoing projects. People in the surrounding areas might not have known about or fully understood the Front Range Pika Project or the Colorado Corridors Project if they didn’t have the opportunity to get directly involved. By integrating community members and stakeholders from the very beginning, these projects gain more support and get input from groups with different perspectives and interests.

I’d like to thank everyone who made this summer so wonderful, especially the 100 Women for the Wild, who make this internship possible! Special thanks to the RMW and Zoo staff members, and of course Paige and Megan! I am honored to have worked with Rocky Mountain Wild and was lucky to learn from such passionate, intelligent, fun people!