Notes from the Field: Intern Experience in Wabikon, Wisconsin
Juan Camilo Bedoya Castrillón is a recent graduate of Universidad Nacional de Colombia with a degree in Forest Engineering. He was first introduced to the ForestGEO network when he participated in the re-census of the Amacayacu site in 2016 in the Colombian Amazon. He brought this experience to his internship at the Wabikon site in Wisconsin, USA for the summer of 2018 to develop his skills in measuring tree growth, mortality, and recruitment. He describes his internship experience in the following post.
As I departed Medellín, Colombia, for my ForestGEO internship in Northern Wisconsin, I was taking my first plane ride to a foreign country. I applied to the internship after doing field work in the forest in Colombia, collecting data on foliar functional traits, mortality, and tree measurements. Colombia is a tropical country, very close to the equator with links to South and Central America, with a huge amount of biodiversity. I was excited by the opportunity to experience a culture and forest so different from my own.
The internship was a wonderful learning experience, from understanding the local flora and species resilience, to the importance of teamwork and maintaining data quality. I noticed immediately the differences between Wabikon and Amacayacu. The huge environmental constraints that life has to handle to survive in Wisconsin compared to Colombia made me think that these plants are truly heroic. It was incredible to see herbaceous species like Trillium grandiflorum (common name: trillium flower) and Lysimachia borealis (common name: starflower) flowering so quickly, seemingly trying to start their reproductive cycle before the cold set in. One special spot inside the forest site was nicknamed “the bug” which had high diversity in contrast with the high altitude.
One of the most significant lessons I learned during the internship was the importance of teamwork. The Principal Investigators of the plot, Amy Wolf and Robert Howe, and the field crew leaders and members, warmly welcomed me as soon as I arrived, and were encouraging and open communicators during the entire summer, always looking to ensure a great experience for every crew member.
Coming to the US also gave me the great opportunity to do “non-academic” activities after my internship concluded. I was fortunate to go river rafting and rock climbing Yellowstone National Park, Mount Rushmore, and Missoula, Montana. I am thankful for the opportunity to intern with ForestGEO, and hope to continue working with the network in my career.