A Summer in the Frank Church Wilderness

To better understand my global theme of culture and politics, my summer was spent contemplating what differentiates big ‘W’ Wilderness from small ‘w’ wilderness. Big ‘W’ Wilderness is land specifically assigned the designation of Wilderness. It can be a state or federal designation, but once designated, management for these lands changes a great deal. I also observed how those statutes are interpreted based on need and human agendas. Wilderness is an interesting concept because its creation is based off the Wilderness Act of 1964, where Wilderness was officially defined as, “…in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, [Wilderness] is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain” (Wilderness Act, 1964). It prohibits anything mechanized such as chainsaws, mountain bikes, or motor vehicles from being used within its boundaries. That being said, some Wilderness areas have some grandfathered in clauses that permit some of those prohibitions. For example, in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness—where I worked all summer—backcountry airstrips were grandfathered into its statute, and thus, airplanes are allowed to fly and land in that Wilderness. This is unusual for Wilderness as motorized vehicles (i.e., planes) are supposed to be illegal. I heard these planes all summer while we worked. There are a few contradictions like that in the Wilderness Act, and I have struggled with understanding them all summer. My conclusion is that in order to protect the majority of the land, compromises were made to sacrifice smaller sections for established commodities. It still sits uncomfortably in my stomach, but such is the way of the world.

I must admit, despite my discomfort with the ambiguity of the Wilderness Act, I had the opportunity to fly in a plane over the Frank Church Wilderness, and I loved every minute of it. Looking down upon the mountains and seeing where I had been working all summer from a birds eye view was simply spectacular. I wrote in my journal that night:

“There’s little more humbling than looking down upon mountains thousands upon millions of times larger and older than you are. And there’s something so delightful about looking down and seeing a backcountry trail. Not many have traveled it but it’s something you see as a member of a trail crew and think ‘my people have walked this, my people have worked this; this is why we’re here.’ These tiny ant lines cut into mountains and valleys, down to rivers and following ridges. We are so so small. But we are so so powerful.”

It was really inspiring and encouraging to be able to experience that. It was a highlight of the summer, and I am so grateful I got to have that opportunity—for work nonetheless!

The view from the plane as I flew over the Frank Church Wilderness. Photo credited to Jaime Breisch.

The cultural aspect of my internship was in working on trails and surviving in the backcountry, which was something I learned a great deal about firsthand. It can be tough at times, but if you can find your rhythm, make peace with the structure, and embrace being brought down to the simpler lifestyle of survival, it can be so rewarding. Being in the backcountry, you learn quickly there are a number of things that are out of your control: thunderstorms, where water sources are located, when trees decide to fall. All you can do is persevere through and keep in mind; these troubles will pass.  

People who do regularly work trails—trail dogs—are diverse. More so than I ever expected. That’s not to mention the community and comradery that comes from suffering with people. As a woman, you are warned of being leery of men and making sure they don’t walk all over you. The Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation—my employer for this summer—is an organization that does not tolerate or stand for that kind of sexism in the front or back country. Seeing as the majority of the organization is run by women and the president of the board for the organization is a woman, prejudice was never something that was an issue. Instead, the community is open, accepting, and non-judgmental. Being out in Wilderness for up to nine days at a time can be hard on a person mentally, physically, and emotionally. This isn’t work that’s cut out for everyone. To have such a community that is persistent yet patient as you discover where you stand on such work, is priceless. The connections I discovered this summer are ones I will have for the rest of my life.

I gained a better understanding of the diverse perspectives related to my theme and challenge, however, not in the way I thought I would. I never realized the importance of work culture and its relation to the success of a team such as the crews we worked on this summer. I was lucky enough to have a small crew and we all got along famously. Other interns in their crews, I came to learn, did not. Being able to work with people greatly different from yourself is critical. Adaptability is everything, and it’s important to be able to communicate issues that come up in a clear and succinct way, so problems don’t ruminate until someone blows up. I had ample opportunity to practice these kinds of skills throughout the duration of my internship. My crew leader made sure to offer opportunities for us to take charge and practice being the leaders for the day, including planning where the team would go and what we would do. My organizational, communication, and preparation skills also improved exponentially as it was critical, I be prepared for our excursions into the backcountry, and that I knew where things were should I need them quick. As a result, my confidence in my physical ability and my ability to handle emergency situations has increased as well.

Wilderness Stewardship is so important, and going forward, I hope to continue pursuing work opportunities in Wilderness.

Jaime Breisch filtering water on Marble Creek Trail (Trail #062). Photo credited to Parker DePond.

References

Wilderness Act of 1964, 16 U.S. Code § 1131. (1964). https://wilderness.net/learn-about-wilderness/key-laws/wilderness-act/default.php

The Department of the Interior

My name is Beatrix Frissell and I spent my summer interning with the Department of the Interior in Washington D.C., focusing on my global theme of Culture and Politics. As a native Montanan from Polson, MT, I have been interested in politics since my experience at Girl’s State my senior year of high school, but I have spent little time outside of my home state. In taking the trip to Washington D.C., I was immersed in a city and cohort far more diverse than the one I grew up with, I learned how politics and our country’s management of natural resources have changed over time, and I gained confidence in traveling and meeting others for the future.

Perhaps my favorite part of my experience in Washington D.C. was getting to know my fellow cohort of Demmer Scholars, all of us a mix of students interested in natural resource policy from the University of Montana, Michigan State University, and Mississippi State University. Our weekly weekend field trips became my favorite part of my trip, from seeing horseshoe crabs on the Delaware Bay for the first time to eating dinner on top of the Watergate hotel. Despite the differences and diversity within the group from hometowns to internships, we clicked easily through our shared interest in the environment and policy. One such trip was to Shenandoah National Park, where I witnessed the expansive view of the East coast forests on Skyline Drive. Forests like those in Shenandoah National Park look quite different from those in Western Montana, a fact that is influenced in a large part by the history of our country. Almost everything, from natural resources to food, have been influenced by values and political views within our country. In early United States history, after Indigenous inhabitants were wrongly wiped or pushed off the land, this area was entirely homesteads that were meant for farming and ranching. However, the land has changed in recent decades with factors like poor soil and the emancipation of enslaved peoples, and it is now home to an expanse of rather young and densely populated chestnut and red oak trees. I learned far more about culture and management of policies around natural resources by witnessing their ecological impact directly.

Having grown up in a small town, living in a city as large as Washington D.C. was a stressful experience in many ways, but it was rewarding in that I am now more confident navigating and meeting others in new places. In fact, perhaps the biggest way my experience in D.C. developed my leadership skills was by instilling more confidence in me, like teaching me through my work experience and class experience to ask more questions and allowing me to understand that I can be put in a new environment, be successful, and even thrive. Over time, as I worked on projects from environmental justice to research on implementing a new orphan oil and gas well plugging program, I learned to communicate and connect with my boss, received kudos from the office director, and balanced my busy schedule. My nerves went away. Now, I am excited to continue exploring new places, with hopes to go on an international experience in the coming years to continue to grow as a person and discover how I can best make a positive impact for my local and global community.

Outdoor Education in Glacier National Park: The Most Beautiful Classroom

This summer, I completed my Beyond the Classroom Experience with the Glacier Institute, a nonprofit based in Columbia Falls, MT that focuses on outdoor education in and around Glacier National Park. I was hired as an outdoor educator intern for Big Creek Outdoor Education Center, the Glacier Institute’s location that focuses on youth outdoor education. Big Creek served an important purpose in a lot of kids’ lives this summer. For most of them, it was their first time interacting with kids their own age since schools were shut down. Outdoor education also provides a unique opportunity for them to challenge themselves, learn new skills, and develop a connection with the environment that will hopefully foster positive environmental behavior in the future. Aside from leading team building activities, I got to help teach the campers about land stewardship, navigation, fly fishing, and other wilderness skills.

I got to teach lessons about benthic macroinvertebrates and their importance to the environment as a part of our fly fishing classes. Campers were instructed to find as many macroinvertebrates as they could in Big Creek so we could identify them together. I was surprised at how much fun everyone had looking for all the macroinvertebrates, and campers wanted to spend more of their free time looking for these cool bugs!

The global theme I chose was Global and Public Health, with my specific challenge being that I wanted to improve public health by connecting people to their environment in order to make healthy, sustainable lifestyle choices that support not only individual health and wellness, but also community health. The Glacier Institute allowed me to focus specifically on youth, and I was able to spend an entire summer observing how the environment brought kids together after months of isolation from both their peers and their ‘normal’ lifestyles. I quickly realized that outdoor education was only a small part of what we were doing for our campers. Along with many returning campers, we received numerous grateful emails from parents describing how a week at Big Creek gave their kids a break from all of the stress and uncertainty that the pandemic caused in their families. I learned so much about the pandemic through the campers’ eyes, and I feel like I have a totally different understanding of youth in the age of coronavirus.

As a part of our stewardship lesson, campers learned about invasive species like spotted knapweed and why it was important to give back to the landscape that provided them with so many fun adventures. Campers helped pull tons of knapweed in the Flathead National Forest throughout the summer.

One of my goals for the summer was to explore how youth develop a sense of place attachment because positive environmental behavior is often initiated by feeling a strong connection to the world around you. With the campers, this came in the form of hands-on exploration of the natural world as well as learning about stewardship. However, I also wanted to explore my own feelings of place attachment. I know that history and traditions are things that make me feel stronger connections with the world around me, so I decided to create a small side project I called the 2020 Homestead Hunt where I tried tracing the footsteps of the North Fork Valley homesteaders. I pulled from numerous sources in order to find the original property locations of different homesteaders including the National Registry of Historic Places and previous research by archaeologists Douglas MacDonald (Final Inventory and Evaluation Report: North Fork Homestead Archaeological Project, 2009) and Patricia Bick (Homesteading on the North Fork in Glacier National Park, 1986). When Glacier National Park was established in 1910, there were 44 North Fork homestead sites located in the park. It was a bit of a scavenger hunt because most of these sites were not on any map and I had to use multiple research sources to try and pinpoint locations. Some sites still contained historic structures while others had been burned over and overgrown with new vegetation.

Pictured above is an old basement where Johnnie Walsh established his claim. From 1918 to 1925, his property was the location of the Kintla Post Office until it was moved to Polebridge. I am holding the 1986 paperwork from the National Registry of Historic Places that described the general area and helped lead me to the unmarked location.
This homestead was built by Rudolph Matejka in 1908, a twenty-three year old from Nebraska. While the homestead remains off of Glacier National Park maps, it has been restored by the Glacier National Park Volunteer Associates.

Another thing I loved about the Glacier Institute is that they thought it was important for us to explore the park in order to get to know it as well as feel more connected to the place around us. I feel so grateful to all the Glacier Institute staff for showing me around and giving me opportunities to see such breathtaking places.

I had such a memorable experience with the Glacier Institute, and I left feeling touched by my amazing coworkers, campers, and the landscape that became my stomping grounds.

This ancient lone ponderosa pine officially earned a waypoint in my GPS. I found it while on a bushwhacking expedition for three different homestead sites. Along with it’s very tiny ponderosa offspring, it was the only ponderosa left in the area. It’s so old that it would have been around when the homesteaders were first building their homes.

Animal Rights in Veterinary Medicine

Unlike most of my colleagues, I chose not to study abroad for my Beyond the Classroom experience. Instead, I stayed here in Missoula and was fortunate enough to get an internship at Eastgate Veterinary Clinic. Eastgate Veterinary Clinic is truly unique in that it is run by a single veterinarian, Dr. Klietz, who not only treats dogs and cats but exotic animals as well. Having exotic animals on a regular basis meant that there was always something interesting going on in this clinic whether Dr. Klietz was diagnosing a torn acl or trimming the beaks of a parrot, I was always kept on my toes. In just the first week of my internship I was given the opportunity to learn how to properly hold a ferret as well as a parrot. While at Eastgate Veterinary Clinic I developed hands on skills such as handling exotic species, improved my knowledge of diagnosing and treating animals, and the importance of customer service.

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For my global theme of social inequality and human rights, I focused on promoting and spreading education awareness of animal rights. Luckily I was able to do this on a regular basis through customer service. Customer service at Eastgate involved doing call backs, checking clients in, listening to client’s issues, and getting to know your clients personally. Talking to clients on a regular basis gave me many opportunities to discuss how they felt about their pet’s worth outside of their usefulness towards the owners. For the most part many people stated that they would do anything for their pet to live a life without pain or suffering. However, once money was involved a lot of these individuals’ values changed. Many clients refused the best treatment for their pet and some would even walk out of the clinic without getting any treatment regardless of their pet’s condition. Dr. Klietz informed me after some time that this is a constant battle for veterinarians to deal with but he had a great solution for these situations. Over the next few days after a client had left the clinic, Dr. Klietz would have other staff members and I do call backs and try to get the animal the care it needs. The goal of these callbacks was to find common values with the owners in relation to how important their pet is to them then urge the owner to reconsider any treatment that would help their pet. Doing these types of tasks made me question if a common ground will ever be met between an animal’s life or money.

My beyond the classroom experience has immensely pushed my leadership goals. Working in a clinic with a single doctor, it is imperative that you do your tasks right every time. This stress helped push me to be more confident as an individual as well as a leader. In addition, customer service has given me insight on the broad spectrum of concerns clients and people go through on a daily basis and helped me develop higher standards in regards to building relationships and listening to others. I cannot thank Dr. Klietz and his staff enough for the amazing opportunity they have given me.

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Out of the Classroom, Still in Missoula (and loving it)

In High School, I studied abroad in Peru for a month of the summer of 2012. The experience was breathtaking. I learned more Spanish in a single month than I ever could have in the classroom, my understanding of other cultures and the U.S. expanded and I found greater confidence in myself. I joined GLI three years ago because I wanted to study abroad again. The essence of a study abroad experience is in its challenge to understand another culture and foreign environment and so I couldn’t imagine discovering that kind of experience here in the United States, let alone Missoula. And yet, I chose to fulfill my Out of Classroom experience right here in Missoula and feel that I have learned more about the world and myself than expected. I am working with Congolese refugees relocated here last September, helping them direct their own short films under the New Neighbors Project. This month two of those refugee directed films and the feature-length documentary of the project as a whole premieres (check the New Neighbors Project Facebook page or website, newneighborsmedia.org, for details) at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival!

The experience has pushed me to grow emotionally and professionally. Working within the nuances of a different cultural mindset requires an open heart, forgiveness and patience. Working with trauma requires empathy, but clear boundaries. My technical skills have improved and I’ve gained confidence in my abilities after working with a team of established filmmakers. I feel equipped to address my global theme, Social Inequality and Human Rights, beyond the scope of the New Neighbors Project. My challenge against Social Inequality and Human Rights is to think globally and act locally. I can see the positive impact this project is having on the refugee crisis and I see positive changes for the Missoula community. I met once a week with one of the directors to talk film and help with the camera, but I also helped him develop his English, practice driving (he passed the driver’s ed test on the first try!) and explore the city and community of Missoula. In this exchange I’ve acquired the tangible skills of some Swahili and French conversation and the recipes for ugali and sweet breads. Most importantly I’ve learned how to navigate the tricky ground of mistranslated conversations, informed consent and transparency in how to admit failure and celebrate success.

I want to encourage other students to complete their Out of the Classroom experience here in Missoula. The refugees need a lot of help and resources, but the call to action has seen an increase in programs and projects (like New Neighbors) that is strengthening our community and pushing us all to grow as a support network. This project has a huge production team and works closely with multiple organizations in Missoula to provide a well-rounded support network to the refugees. I am confident that there is just as much effort put towards other global issues like Climate Change and poverty at the local level here. After all, there are more than 1,200 registered local non-profits in Missoula. The director I work most closely with told me the other day that “Missoula is my home now”. I cannot express how strongly his words affect me. I am proud of Missoula and feel strength in this community to tackle global issues, one day at a time.

Jumping into the Unknown

3 months, 90 days, 2160 hours, I got the wonderful opportunity to spend in the land of the Kiwis. The beautiful country southeast of Australia should not be overshadowed. New Zealand, the land of rugby, Lord of the Rings, beautiful beaches, bungy jumping, left-side-of-the-road driving, strong coffee, Maori Culture, etc., was my home for the summer.

The Kiwis (local people) welcome new travelers with open arms and open hearts. I interned for a non-profit organization, Recreate New Zealand, working with people with intellectual disabilities. Everyone I worked with, both participants and staff members, were the nicest people I have ever met. I become close friends with other staff members and interns. I even got to play on a soccer team for two games with a staff member (something I never thought I’d get the opportunity to do).  One staff member’s family was kind enough to host a traditional “kiwi feast”.

My Global Theme and Challenge for my time abroad focused on engaging children in physical activity to give them a healthy start to life. While the population I worked with in New Zealand would not be considered children, but rather young adults, they are just as important of a population to be teaching healthy habits. Health and nutrition were not the main focuses of most of the programs (a few programs were focused on health habits), but all the programs did incorporate it one way or another. On weekend getaways, we would plan healthy meals. We would always try to get out for some physical activity during the day as well. Everyone enjoyed walking along the beach or in the bush (forest). I have learned that health encompasses more than just physical activity, but social interaction as well. Recreate NZ focuses on creating the environment where participants can receive and participate in a fun, social environment. Many of the participants have met their best friends through Recreate NZ.

New Zealand is a well-developed country like The United States and thus extremely similar. I easily made friends with my co-workers at Recreate NZ and always went to them with questions if something about the culture confused me. Interacting with the participants really strengthened my role as a leader. Everything I did was being watched and possibly copied by the participants. I was a role model they looked up to.

As a going away present and a thank you, Recreate NZ took me and another American Intern to the Auckland Harbour Bridge. They pushed us off the bridge!! Just kidding, we jumped and were connected to harnesses. Bungee Jumping is a great representation of my experience going abroad. I was nervous all up until the final step off the edge. But, looking over over the edge, feeling all the safety equipment, and knowing everything was going to be okay, I made the jump. I’d never been abroad, let alone on the other side of the hemisphere. The whole experience was a leap of faith and brought me out of my comfort zone, but I knew everything was going to be okay. And it was more than okay. It was amazing. Just like the bungee, I would love to do it again.

I had a wonderful experience abroad and I would give anything to go back to New Zealand to work with Recreate NZ again or to just see all the wonderful friends I made. I loved learning first-hand about New Zealand and being immersed within the culture. I am forever grateful for the Franke Global Leadership Initiative for giving me the opportunity to have the most amazing experience of my life.

A Summer with Missoula Beekeepers

This summer I interned with Environment Montana in Missoula, which is a branch of Environment America. This has been an enlightening experience about the environmental issues facing both our state and country. For my experience, I was assigned to work on the organization’s Bee Friendly Food Alliance campaign, which brings together chefs, restaurants and others in the food industry to come together to help save the bees. Bees pollinate 71 of 100 crops that supply 90% of the world’s food and in the past decade, beekeepers have been reporting an average loss of 30% of all honeybee colonies each winter. Montana is not an exception to these statistics and bees are essential for the pollination of Montana crops like strawberries, pumpkins, onions and tomatoes. One major reason for bees dying off is the use of a category of insecticides called Neonicotinoids, also known as neonics. Missoula beekeepers have noticed the impact of insecticide-treated plants on their bees and know that the only way to protect bees is by changing agricultural practices and supporting wild plant life.

I had the opportunity to interview Missoula beekeepers about these issues and create an informational video about these people and issues. It was a really great experience and I had a lot of fun making the video. Each beekeeper I spoke to was a wealth of information and taught me a lot about the importance of bees, what’s causing them to die off and how to protect them. I’m grateful that I was able to combine my journalistic skills and passion for the environment to form a really meaningful internship experience with Environment Montana and a video to share to communities around the country. I am much more aware of what issues are facing both bees and Missoula beekeepers after working on this project. Now, instead of swatting bees away, I’m thankful for their presence and am more aware of how my actions affect these tiny creatures and their ability to make much of the world’s food possible. Not only that, but I also got to experience beekeeping first-hand, suit and all. 

Tiffany Folkes

 

Living the Dream (Internship Week 1)

My medical internship was at Peking University Shenzhen Hospital, which is one of the teaching hospitals of Peking University School of Medicine. Jet lag and endless warnings for turbulence confused my senses. Listening to people speaking in Mandarin made me realize that I had arrived at my destination after over 30 hours of flight and transition. It was so familiar, but new and exciting at the same time, because this was my first solo adventure in a new city as an adult!

First life lesson I learned from my internship: Never be afraid to ask for help! When I first arrived at the hospital, I started my “scavenger hunt” for my supervisor, internship office, my dorm arrangement, and where to get my work clothes/name tag. So, I started with finding my supervisor, Dr. Li, and dragged my luggage among a crowd of patients at the busiest hour in the morning. I asked volunteer guides where to go almost every 5 minutes.

First excitement: I received a white coat to wear for the duration of my internship! It was the first time that I could be so close to my dream career. On the second day of arrival, I started my internship at Department of Plastic Surgery in the OR. Even though I was just getting oriented to observation protocols, I noticed the striking similarities with what I saw when I shadowed at American hospitals: equipment, procedural standards, and infrastructure. My supervisor, Dr. Li, told me that she received part of her medical training at USC, CA. She also shared that large percentage of the equipment and materials for plastic surgery were imported from American companies. I was excited to learn of the existing medical collaboration between the U.S. and China. It encourages my dream of becoming a physician who wants to participate in the global effort in improving people’s life quality via wellness.

 

10 weeks of simulating galaxies: check

Over the past 10 weeks, I have developed relationships I will never forget and learned new skills to further my career in astrophysics.

The last weekend was spent at the Brookhaven National Lab in Yorktown Heights, New York. The photo on the left shows the STAR detector for the accelerator shown on the right. We were unable to get a private tour, but the public tour was far worth it. We spent the day in awe of modern physics.

I have given my research talk and poster presentation to the department and my peers, and everything is coming to a close. I was very pleased with the knowledge I was able to gain in just 10 weeks. I was able to comprehensively answer questions I would not have dreamed to be able to answer at the beginning. The photo below shows the poster I presented. My research advisor and I plan to meet at the American Astronomical Society conference in January for me to present my work there as well. Photo Aug 03, 7 28 30 AM

Leaving my internship was bittersweet. I now have friends all over the United States, and I am certain we will all never been in the same place at the same time ever again. I know the friendships will continue until I am old. As school approaches, I am eager to start classes and begin my teaching assistant job. I am excited to teach younger students in my department how to code, observe, and write scientific research papers. This is going to bring me much closer to being a professor someday. I will also be continuing my research with Project MINERVA this fall, finding exoplanets.

As I look to graduate schools for Fall 2017, I will consider the things I learned at Rutgers University this summer and hope to apply them to the rest of my career to become a leader in my field. I thank everyone that made this opportunity possible for me.

Local Farming Unveiled

Until this summer, I had never truly thought about where all of my food comes from. Although, I had thought about where meat comes from and how terrible the commercial industry is for those animals that are raised for our consumption. I have never realized how ultimately disconnected I–as well as many other people are–was from my food sources. What I didn’t realize before was that the commercial produce industry is about as bad to the land as the commercial meat industry is to both the land and animals. The majority of the commercial produce industry supports mono-cultures of food and therefore supports the use of herbicides and pesticides, which in turn ruins the soil and pollutes rivers and streams. People are so disconnected from this reality because the majority of people just buy their food from the grocery store and don’t pay attention to where it is coming from and how it is produced.

Working this summer at the ten acre organic PEAS Farm up the Rattlesnake, I learned just how large of a disconnect there is between people and their food in the modern world. Because of my time working at the farm, I now try to make more responsible choices with where I purchase my food from. I have realized that I want a life filled with good, real food, that is produced from local growers who work hard to produce this beautiful and delicious food. After meeting many of these local growers around the state of Montana, I recognized their integrity and their love of the land. These people work so hard to produce real food for people all around Montana, all the while making sure that their practices uplift the land rather than tearing it down. These are the farmers and ranchers who, at the farmers markets, will talk to you, tell you how they grow everything, and get about anything you need from what they produce. Fortunately, in Missoula there is a large amount of people who really do care, and this is evidenced by the crowds of people under the bridge and by the X’s in downtown Missoula on Saturday mornings during the summer. I am so fortunate to live in a place where the integrity of the land is protected, and where purchasing real local produce is a livelihood.