The Hard, but Surprisingly Enjoyable Work of A “Field Services” Intern

At the very beginning of the internship, I thought that my typical day would consist of walking around and identifying different plant species during the morning portion and documenting my findings throughout the afternoon. Based on my supervisor relaxed, yet deceiving tone during the interview, I believe that the job would be simple, but boring. However, on the first day of actual work (after orientation), I was greeted with an unusual, but pleasant surprise. Right off the bat, my supervisor asked my other “Field Services” coworkers and I to assist him in removing “dead-fall” (or a fallen tree) from one of the visitor trails at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. Initially, I was shocked by the caliber of responsibility that had just been placed upon me; never before had I helped disassemble and remove a dead tree, so I was unsure of the kind of gear or skills that I would need to do so. My worries were quickly put to rest after my supervisor introduced us to two of his most persistent and devoted volunteers. They were both relatively older men, but seemed very capable of getting even the toughest of jobs done. They were going cut the tree into logs via chainsaws, then we, the interns, would help move the logs into the bucket of a tractor. This tractor would then carry the logs to the compost area near the back of the space. My coworkers seemed to have mixed feelings about the plan, but I was ecstatic! Not only was I glad that I would not be documenting plants and their locations all day, I was excited to participate in an aspect of landscaping that I had never experienced beforehand. In the past, I had just cut down herbaceous plant species with manual tools, such as “weed whips” and “loppers,” but now I would get to work with woody plants and learn how they die as well as the hazards that they present. At the end of the day, I was satisfied with the work the my new work group and I had completed and was excited to see what kind of other tasks we would complete in the future.


The days that followed did not disappoint! As the internship progressed, we had the chance to remove and replant tree saplings around the various garden areas, fill holes and divots in walking and driving paths within the Nichols Arboretum, and even recover a fallen tree from a river bank so that visitors in floaties and kayaks would not run into it. Later on, we even had the chance to learn how to proper operate a chainsaw. I actually cut down an adult tree on my own, with a bit of guidance on the side of course! The tree itself was invasive, so there was a reason to bring it down. The experience that I have had over the course of this internship have been enjoyable as well as informational and I hope the last few weeks pan out the same way!


At the beginning of the internship, I had no idea of how physically demanding the job would be. Initially, I had plans of going to the gym over the summer to stay active. However, this idea was eventually scrapped as I came home almost everyday exhausted. As a word of advice, if you are looking to work at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum as a “Field Services” intern, be prepared for a lot of physical activity. Though some days can be lax, these days are often scarce. Though a lot of hard work is involved, please do not allow this description to scary you away from the landscaping and conservation field. Outdoor work can be tiring at times, but it is very fun and enlightening overall!


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