Making an Impact as an MNA Intern

by Emma Kull, MNA Communications Intern

Like many who now work in the field of conservation, I grew up with a special affinity to animals. Of course, I loved the ones that lived in my home. We would always compare our house to a zoo–and by ‘we’, I mean my dad, who was constantly attempting to be the voice of reason whenever my sister and I would point at a new creature in a pet store and yell ‘that one!’. I loved all animals, though, not just the ones who relied on me to take care of them. I loved the deer that would occasionally stroll beyond the nearby park boundaries and wander into our front yard. I loved the moles that our neighbors would spend hours trying to get off their property. I loved the chipmunks that would find their way into our attic and drive everyone mad, the birds that would sing to us in the morning, and the squirrels that ran up and down our fences all afternoon. I wasn’t sure how to help them, but I desperately wanted to do something. Naturally, when it came time for me to choose a field of study in college, that admiration and appreciation of animals played a large role in my decision.

Emma Kull at a natural area in Michigan. Photo courtesy Emma Kull.

Now a graduate of Michigan State University, I have more than a love for animals, but an understanding of them as well. This is key to doing any conservation work, and a lesson that I continue to learn everyday in the work that I do both at Howell Nature Center, and at the Michigan Nature Association.

At Howell Nature Center, I work directly with injured, impaired, and sick wildlife. The reality of working with wildlife is that it is hard. There are hundreds of animals that can’t be saved, and that is a call that someone has to make nearly every day. Sometimes even more difficult, is the ones that can be saved – these are the ones that you have to let go. Protecting wildlife is not about caretaking them. The best case scenario when an injured animal comes in is that they are released back into the wild. The part of you that loves animals wants to keep them safe in your care forever, but the part of you that understands animals knows they need to be wild.

Photo courtesy Emma Kull.

As an intern at MNA, I get to experience a whole other side of conservation work. This often looks like the ‘bigger picture’. In order to protect biodiversity and maintain healthy ecosystems, we must work to conserve habitats and species populations, not just individual animals. I’ve found the experience I’ve gained already at MNA to be invaluable as a tool for promoting conservation efforts. Though it is very different from the work I do at Howell Nature Center, it is closely related in that it promotes the true needs of the environment and wildlife. Once again, this comes with a true understanding of animals and not just an innate admiration.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to receive an opportunity to work at the Detroit Zoo over the summer. I am inspired by all of the important and groundbreaking work the DZS is doing for the welfare of their animals and the conservation of species in the wild. If you’re a frequent visitor of the Detroit Zoo, you might not see every animal every time. This is because the Detroit Zoo is a leading zoo in captive animal welfare and designs their exhibits with an emphasis on the individual animal’s wellbeing. Though guest experience is also extremely important, it is never allowed to interfere with the zoo’s important mission of ‘Saving and Celebrating Wildlife’. Thus, instead of keeping resident animals in smaller habitats with fewer shelters to make them more visible to guests, the Detroit Zoo teaches guests that their animals are more than just a sight to see. They focus on educating the public on important conservation issues, and they bring together people and animals through animal ambassador programs that are safe for the animals and provide guests with a more close-up picture. I’m proud to have a zoo in our community that is leading the way in these important issues, and I am excited to contribute to those efforts.

When you care about animals the way I do, it is such a rewarding experience to work to protect them, even if it’s not quite how you imagined it being as a kid. It can be more challenging than expected and often much less hands on. It can even be upsetting or heartbreaking. However, it is truly worth it for the change that you’ll make, the amazing people that you’ll meet, and all the creatures that you’ll help.

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In the fall of 2021, Emma Kull began a graduate program at the University of Michigan’s Rackham Graduate School in the Environment and Sustainability program. We thank Emma for her contributions to MNA’s work and wish her the best in her endeavors. You can make a difference too as a Communications Intern with the Michigan Nature Association. Visit michigannature.org to learn more about how to apply.

Field Experience at Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary

Two enthusiastic interns and a grant from the Franklin D. Adams Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint made a big difference this summer for one of MNA’s most popular nature sanctuaries, the Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary in Fenton.

Andrew Borin recounts his summer internship experience:

Our time with MNA has proved to be a positive experience for both Ashlie and I. Neither of us could have imagined the positive reactions that we received from the volunteers, MNA staff and community members who recognized the work we accomplished in our time at Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary. Ashlie and I came from different academic backgrounds but shared one common goal during the internship: to work hard and make the largest impact we could. Every day we gave our all and pushed through the never-ending wall of invasive shrubs that plagues the sanctuary. The most common of which was autumn olive. Dauner Martin was our home for the summer and offered many challenges.

Dauner Martin - Andrew BaconWhat Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary lacks in rare species, it makes up for in the role it plays within the community. The sanctuary sits within a business district in Fenton, Michigan. This urban setting makes it a unique sanctuary for Michigan Nature Association and offers benefits and problems not found within their other properties. With two entrances into the sanctuary located close to a busy road, the roughly 4.5 miles of trails are frequented by Fenton’s local citizens. Having a 155-acre green space in a city offers many positives ecologically and for the community. Not only do visitors get to hike and enjoy the pine plantations, prairies, wetlands and hardwood forests offered by the sanctuary, it is also used by local organizations to help promote outdoor activities and an appreciation for nature. On the ecological side of things, the sanctuary also acts as a haven for an assortment of wildlife and promotes ground water recharge.

native plant garden - Andrew BorinOur common workday included a variety of activities. Trash clean up and trail maintenance was usually reserved for our down-time. We also installed a 1,700 square foot native garden which we hope will grow and flourish. But the majority of our time was spent cutting down invasive shrubs using power tools and treating the stumps with herbicide. After the shrubs were cut, we would haul the branches through the understory and stack them into piles. Overall we cleared over 10 acres performing these day-to-day activities.

Ashlie and Andrew at DMWith the internship completed, Ashlie and I are headed back to school to finish our final two semesters before entering the workforce. I will be finishing my degree in Plant Biology at Michigan State University with the intention of working in habitat conservation and restoration. Ashlie intends to work with fisheries in the Upper Peninsula after completing her degree in Fisheries and Wildlife at the University of Michigan. As we look towards our futures, I speak for both of us when I say that we will always look back at our time at Dauner Martin fondly and I’m sure we’ll be back to see what improvements have been made to the sanctuary. We can’t thank MNA enough for giving us this experience and will use what we have learned as a platform, upon which we will build our future careers.

Thank you Andrew and Ashlie for all of your hard work!

Summer Stewardship Internships Open!

Stewardship Assistant
Volunteer Internship
Michigan Nature Association

Location: Variable by day – work will take place at numerous MNA sanctuaries across southeast Michigan.

Duration: Negotiable, May–September is preferred

Time Commitment:  Applicants should be available a minimum of one full day – can be up to 10 hours (including drive time) – per week and arrange for their own transportation to the day’s meeting location. Options to carpool with staff or other interns may be available.  Internship will be considered fulfilled when the Stewardship Assistant has completed 18 full days of volunteer service with MNA.

Required Experience: Some previous experience in the environmental field – can be through education, volunteering, past internships or jobs, etc.  Ability to perform physically demanding work outside, in a wide range of weather conditions, while maintaining a positive attitude.  Ability to communicate professionally and politely is a must as there is a high level of interaction involved with staff, stewards, and volunteers.

Responsibilities:  The Stewardship Assistant’s primary responsibility will be to assist MNA staff, stewards, and volunteers in the management of sanctuaries through various forms of field activity, which may include: removal of invasive species, trail and boundary maintenance, participating in controlled burns, conducting species surveys, site monitoring, etc.

This volunteer internship will include opportunities to:

  • Gain valuable insight into the diverse and often hidden natural environment of Michigan.  With 170+ sanctuaries that are spread across both peninsulas, interns will be exposed to a wide variety of Michigan’s animals and plants, some that are exclusive to the state.
  • Work outdoors in an academic setting that also involves getting one’s hands dirty.  You will learn basic plant identification skills, become familiar with high quality examples of many of the natural communities that occur in southeast Michigan, and gain experience with a range of common management techniques used in the restoration field.
  • Work with experts in the various fields that share a common goal in protecting and preserving our environment.  Botanists, wildlife biologists, ecologists, etc. are working directly at MNA or are closely affiliated with our organization.
  • Learn how to deal with multiple parties across different levels of involvement in the organization, along with gaining excellent communication skills.
  • Become part of an energetic and highly motivated non-profit land protection organization.

*Please Note: This is an unpaid volunteer internship.

Background Information on MNA:

The Michigan Nature Association (MNA), the state’s first land preservation organization, manages and maintains over 170 nature sanctuaries across the state, totaling over 11,000 acres, through ownership and conservation easement.  Most of the sanctuaries house rare habitats and species and are managed to protect their viability.

For More Information or to Apply:

For more information on this position or to apply, please contact MNA Regional Stewardship Organizer, Rachel Maranto, at rmaranto@michigannature.org or 517-525-2627.  Application materials should include resume, cover letter, and contact information for 3 references.  For more information on MNA, please see our web site at www.michigannature.org.

MNA Seeks Summer Communications Interns

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

College internships teach you skills you can apply in a career. They give you hands-on experience in your chosen field and prepare you for the job you’ll get after graduation. But some internships give you more than that; some teach you more about yourself, or they teach you about the community and natural environments in which you live.

In my opinion, those are the internships that are truly worthwhile, and that is the type of education I’ve received as a communications intern for MNA.

If those experiences (plus a lot of writing) sound interesting, then MNA has an internship opportunity for you.

In addition to hiring stewardship interns, MNA is looking for communications interns for summer 2013. Communications interns are supervised by MNA’s Outreach & Development Specialists and develop promotional and educational print materials, create original content for the MNA blog, help manage MNA’s social media accounts, write and edit articles for MNA’s magazine, and write press releases. Because the job is heavily writing-based, students enrolled in journalism, public relations or communications programs are encouraged to apply, although other qualified candidates will be considered. Summer internships run from May until August, although exact dates and schedules are flexible.

According to the job description I read when I applied for the internship, MNA offers “real-world experience in a friendly setting,” and that is exactly what I’ve experienced while working here. I’m hoping to get a job in public relations or social media after graduation, and the projects I’ve completed during my internship have taught me practical skills that I can use in my career. I’ve learned to write using an organization’s voice instead of my own—a skill every PR or social media professional must have—and I’ve further developed my writing and organizational skills. I’ve also learned how to take complex information and communicate it in a way that is easy to read and understand.

But, more importantly, I’ve learned more and more about Michigan’s habitats and species each time I research a new post or article. I’ve always been interested in Michigan’s environment, but didn’t know that much about specific habitats or species until I began this internship. For me, learning about Michigan’s different natural environments and sharing that knowledge is the most rewarding part of being a communications intern for MNA.

For more information, contact Outreach & Development Specialist Allison Barszcz at abarszcz@michigannature.org or 517-655-5655. Application materials should include a resume and writing sample.