Land & Environment

Hands-On Summer: Student Crew Cruises Forests in the Heber-Kamas District

By Lael Gilbert |

Video by Taylor Emerson, Digital Journalist, University Marketing & Communications

It’s a bit counter-intuitive that natural landscapes actually require a fair amount of hands-on management. A forest peppered with beetle-killed trunks, after all, is completely natural. But standing dead wood, when left alone, can be a major threat to the long-term health of a natural space.

Enter the timber crew, teams that spend long summer days surveying and marking standing dead trees — identifying species, classifying size and marking trunks to be removed. Their goal is to remove dead wood so that fires don’t get unmanageably large and to give native plants a sunshine boost.

This summer the team included undergraduate students from the Quinney College of Natural Resources (QCNR) who had the chance to get on-the-ground experience through a cooperative paid internship program with the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. The students learned first-hand how much effort and expertise actually go into managing a natural space like the Heber-Kamas Ranger District.

“This kind of thing is not always easy work,” said veteran Crew Manager Will Sari. “It means being off a trail, often in bad weather and up close with bugs. It requires a willingness to do work that gets you dirty.”

The USU crew worked hard, but they offered “service with a smile,” he said. Having an effective team like this one requires a level of teamwork, individual good judgment and even math skills, he said.

Field internships like this one are invaluable experiences, said Jake Plant, a student majoring in Rangeland Management. The experience helped consolidate the disparate facts taught in the classroom in natural ways, he said. Pieces of information from a variety of fields — from hydrology to range issues — started falling into place when he applied them in real life.

Incoming first-year student Isaac Burt (Wildlife Ecology and management) hasn’t yet even stepped on campus as a full-time student, but already has a summer of experience under his belt with this internship.

The focus on real-world field work is a hallmark of the student experience in QCNR, said Shelly Kotynek, academic advisor. The goal of the program is to allow students to build skills for their future careers, network with professionals, add to their resume, and be a little more ready to launch a future career.

And this work is also long-term cool, said Sydney Fisk, because the data the crew collects is actually entered into the national archives as a record of forest health. The data they gathered this summer will be archived as a permanent record available to researchers, managers and scientists to understand forest health and monitor long-term trends.

For more information about the variety of internship opportunities offered through the QCNR program, visit the QCNR advising page.


Lael Gilbert
Public Relations Specialist
Quinney College of Natural Resources


Hands-on Learning 185stories Plants 175stories Land Management 110stories Outdoor 69stories Internship 45stories

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