From the Field: Haley James, Duke Forest Intern

Our annual Management Internship is a paid 12-24 months position targeted towards students that have recently completed a degree in a forestry or natural resource related program. We are delighted to share this update from our current Management Intern, Haley James.

My name is Haley James, and I was born in Florida but have spent the majority of my life in North Carolina. After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Biology, I moved to Florida to work at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park as an AmeriCorps member, where the beginning of my adventures to pursue a career in environmental conservation lifted off.

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park is a 54,000 acre preserve of the largest remaining expanse of Florida Dry Prairie located near Okeechobee, Florida. The preserve is home to rare and ecologically valuable species, such as the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, as well as a designated Dark Sky Park. During my time working there, I performed a variety of different tasks every day to assist in caring for the park. Among many jobs, I helped to treat invasive plants; surveyed for birds, including the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow; and after successfully completing the S-190 Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior, S-130 Firefighter Training, and L-180 Human Factors on the Fireline courses, participated as a crew member on several prescribed burns.

In my short time thus far as the 2021-2022 Duke Forest Management Intern, my role is to support the Duke Forest staff with daily care of the Forest and the amenities it provides to people, as well as take on a specific project, such as invasive plant management or trail maintenance. In my first couple of weeks, I helped remove sweet gum trees that had overtaken a chestnut tree plantation. Additionally, I had the opportunity to visit Gate 9 to assist with Natural Heritage Monitoring. Gate 9 consists of natural communities rare to the Durham area, and is home to the four-toed and the red-backed salamander. During the monitoring, we found waypoints on a GPS and took pictures of them, to compare to past pictures and observe changes occurring in these areas. I am responsible for shelter upkeep, and have performed trail maintenance in the Korstian Division. Trail maintenance has been one of my favorite responsibilities yet, because I see something different each day; like a tree shaved down by a beaver, a snake wriggling through New Hope Creek, or plants during different stages of their life cycles.

Going forward, I hope to continue to grow as a conservationist. My goal is to obtain the necessary skills, such as park maintenance, invasive plant management, equipment operation and upkeep, and knowledge of flora and fauna, to prepare for a position in park management or as a park specialist.

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