Hello! My name is Joseph Hernandez and I am a senior at UNC and I am majoring in Environmental Studies. This semester, I had the opportunity to intern with The Nature Conservancy at Nags Head Woods. I had the pleasure of working alongside Aaron McCall, the head steward at Nags Head Woods who is in charge of the daily operations and maintenance of the woods.
Before beginning the internship, we went on a class trip to Nags Head Woods and we were given a tour by Aaron. I was amazed by how different the forest was compared to the forests we had back home. I was a little nervous about starting the internship, but I was also excited to get to learn about this different environment and I was ready to help contribute to a project in hopes of learning some new skills that would be valuable once I graduated.
If you enjoy working outdoors, look no further! I would begin my days by meeting with Aaron and figuring out the agenda for the day. I would then head off into the woods on my own or sometimes accompanied by Aaron depending on what tasks needed to be completed that day. For the most part, my internship consisted of doing trail maintenance and helping to maintain the preserve. Being in such a large forest, there was always something to do. Some of the tasks I would do consisted of weed whacking the vegetation growing onto the trails, trimming obtrusive trees and branches, raking the trails so that they are clear to visitors, blowing the trails clear, identifying and removing invasive plant species, repairing the boardwalk and any other general stewardship duties that would arise.
I also had the opportunity of improving my GIS skills by creating a map for the preserve. I was asked to make a map of Nags Head Woods that included all of the controlled burn sites, fuel breaks, and trails. This map will have future use by Nags Head Woods in the planning of any future prescribed fires. Although my GIS knowledge was limited, I had the opportunity to improve my problem-solving and GIS skills and I was able to create this map. It was rewarding to create a finished product that might be of some future use.
My favorite part of my internship was getting the chance to walk all the trails and becoming familiar with Nags Head Woods. My favorite trail to walk was the Roanoke trail because it would take you all the way to the Sound and you could sit there and relax and forget about your problems for a moment while you admire the beauty of the Roanoke Sound. I also loved getting to see all the different wildlife that I would encounter as I walked through the woods. I got to see snakes, frogs, squirrels, turtles, fish, and so many beautiful birds that came to nest in Nags Head Woods or were just stopping by.
Interning at The Nature Conservancy was a unique experience that gave me the opportunity to learn more about the maritime forest ecosystems and to feel more connected with nature. If you need some peace and quiet, this is the internship for you!