Hannah Garland, Natural Resources Intern

When you are a young 20-something in college, you are often pressured to figure out where exactly you are in life as well as where you want to be. Understandably, that can be a very stressful journey. One of the expectations along that journey is to get an internship or a summer job. Frankly, there are lots of places that you could just “get a job.” However, the moment that I talked to Ben Kirkland, the Natural Resources Manager at Chehaw, I knew this wasn’t going to be just any old summer job. I was definitely right about that too.

As a Wildlife Management student, Chehaw has offered me the opportunity for hands on experience about things that I’ve been reading and studying in my classes. I’ve gained a completely new perspective on where I’d like to go after graduation due to Chehaw’s long and interesting history.

This different perspective was definitely going to make or break my resolve, because I learned being an intern wasn’t just stalking deer and taking pictures of foxes. Sometimes it was being chased by a swarm of bees while checking a bluebird nesting box or learning humility by lending a hand shoveling poop in the Zoo. On the other hand, during my time at Chehaw I have helped (and even started!) a prescribed burn and gotten to watch the ecosystem reap the benefits. I have seen Longleaf pine trees that were planted when the first timber companies cut down their previously untouched predecessors, which means they are over 60 years old. I have seen a family of Wood ducks thrive because of the safe home provided for them. Not to mention the countless other types of wildlife I have seen not only living, but thriving, due to the long history of proper management that has been put into practice on the Park.

I look at Chehaw and see a thriving ecosystem that will be there for many generations after me to enjoy. I have seen, and participated in, Wildlife Management as a whole rather than the small snapshots offered elsewhere. I have become a better Wildlife student, and eventually a better Wildlife Biologist, because of my experience.

So, in summation, if you want to have the run-of-the-mill intern experience, you can keep walking because Chehaw isn’t for you. If you want to have a once in a lifetime chance to see wildlife history in the making, be surrounded by amazing people who will treat you like family, and to continue the rich tradition of preserving a place where wildlife and people can thrive together- then take a trip down to Chehaw. I promise, it will be worth it.

I would like to give a special thank you to Mr. Kirkland for being an amazing mentor who has taught me more than any book could ever hope to.