Monday, February 4, 2013

Tonya Olson - Internship at Pepin County, WI

Name: Tonya Olson        
Major & Minor: Environmental Geography
UWEC Standing and Expected Graduation Date: Senior, Spring 2013

Interests and Hobbies:
I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I also enjoy spending time outside playing sports, hiking, camping, and fishing.

Internship Employer: Pepin County (Land Management/Zoning and Land Conservation)
Length of Employment: 3 months (the Tuesday following Memorial Day to the Friday before Labor Day)

Basics : Was your internship paid or unpaid? Did you register for credits? Why or Why not? Did you create the internship or was it advertised? Where did you hear about it?
This was a paid internship (hourly). I did not register for credits because an internship in not required for graduation. I learned about this internship from an email I received from Professor Christina Hupy.

What were your specific job responsibilities?
With this internship came a lot of fun and challenging tasks. The main task for the intern with the Land Management/Zoning office is to do maintenance checks on section corners, in reference to PLSS (Public Land Survey System). This involves printing off tie-sheets from the WI State Cartographers Office with their legal description of the monuments locations and aerial photos in reference to its location. You also get to use a magnetic locator, (more commonly known as a metal detector) as many of the section corner monuments are underground. It’s a lot of fun!  It is also the intern’s responsibility to check the visibility and clearance of GPS corners. This usually involves some weed-whacking.
Working the Land Conservation Department was a lot of fun too. Most days we worked outside. Tasks usually involved working with landowners to help with erosion control on their land, mostly farmers and their fields. We also did a lot of inspection checks of structures that were in the process of being built and ones whose maintenance agreements were soon to be expired. These structures were things like dams, diversions, waterways, and critical area treatments, etc. We did a lot of checks on DNR land and CRP land to check which native and non-native plant species were growing. With them I also had the opportunity to learn how to survey. We also did stream monitoring once a month.
For both departments GIS was a main tool while working in the office. A lot of the projects involved updating maps from the previous year with new information or creating maps for them in GIS that were otherwise just handed out as PDFs at meetings. I had the opportunity to make a map that was used in a court case. That project was a lot of fun, challenging, and a great learning experience.

What do you think gave you to edge to get the internship?
GIS skills were by far the most important skill to bring into that internship.

Was it a valuable experience?
I thought this was an extremely valuable experience!  I learned a lot about land conservation that I would've normally not learned in the classroom. I also learned how to survey which is something I don’t think I would've learned. On top of that I feel that I really honed in on my GIS skills.

How did the logistics work for you? Did you have to move?
Everything worked out great for me. However I live in Mondovi and am used to commuting to school in Eau Claire 5 days a week so going to Durand wasn't a problem at all. I know interns in the past have had to move to Durand for the summer though.

What advice can you give to those who are looking for an internship?
My best advice would be talk to people. I went into Christina’s office the first day of school and told her I was really hoping to get an internship over the summer that was paid and that I wouldn't have to move for and about a month later she sent me email for the position. Talk to your professors, talk to Martin, talk to classmates, and talk to people outside of school who know you well and would be willing to spread the word for you.
Also, do your own research. There are a lot of opportunities out there and if you’re willing to move for the summer you shouldn't have a problem finding something.

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