As my summer in Vail comes to a close, one of the things I will miss most about this internship and living in Colorado will be how I learn out here. This internship required the learning of a large amount of knowledge and information about the local ecology. This included being able to identify almost every species of plant, tree, bird and animal local to the region, as well as additional information and “fun-facts” about these animals or plants. We also had to learn the history of the town of Vail as well as the Vail Valley.
However, all of the information I’ve learned this summer never felt like a burden to learn—as, sadly, it can sometimes feel in college. Every new bit of information gave me a better understanding of the roles different species played in the ecosystem and how everything has come together to give us the landscape we see today (including the large human influences). Even more, I learned the information in the field while we were hiking during training. Many times we would stop and find a new flower and we would have to take out our wildflower identification books and match the leaves and flower to the book to discover what flower it was.
As I learned more and shared this information with visitors it was quite rewarding to see people’s eyes light up as I told them about the medicinal uses of the Yarrow flower, or about the history of the 10th Mountain Division during World War 2 and their influence on Vail and the entire ski resort industry. I felt these rewards were more motivation for me to learn than any letter grade I’ve ever received. Although I am not especially excited to go back to the traditional classroom style learning, I’m very excited for my schedule this semester, which contains two 4-5 hour field laboratories and a teaching English as a second language class, all of which I’m extremely interested in and excited for.
Until next time, Colorado, I know I won’t me away from these mountains for long. Thank you again to the LSA Opportunity Hub for helping to fund this summer of learning, growth, and adventure in one of the most amazing places on Earth.