Written by Mike Lynch
The Forest Stewards Guild has partnered with the US Fish and Wildlife Service for the last several years to provide students with hands-on experiences to learn how forestry and wildlife management work together on public lands. This position had historically been a 26-week position that was best suited for recent graduates. In 2020, we switched to a 12-week summer internship model which opened the opportunity to current students that were at or near the end of their academic studies. These students are hired by the Guild and based at the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge in McBee, South Carolina. We will be offering this opportunity again as a 12-week position in 2021 and look forward to getting to know another pair of great students like we had in 2020.
Amy Sofferin and Lauren DeWitt were selected from a strong pool of applicants prior to COVID-19 outbreaks in the US. We were initially very close to canceling the 2020 internship program but Carolina Sandhills Refuge Manager, Allyne Askins, came up with a solution with one of her colleagues that would allow this to be a safe and educational opportunity. Her colleague was hiring two Director’s Fellows to work on a terrestrial based Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) project to measure specific changes to the vegetation structure (fuel loads) at Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge but they were not allowed to deploy to the field and had to find other ways to collect the data. We determined that the Carolina Sandhills NWR could be a safe location with no planned interaction with the public and decided to train the Guild interns with the two LIDAR units (one FWS, one Tall Timbers). This opened a great learning opportunity for our interns in an expanding area of forestry.
Amy and Lauren prepped for their experience with appropriate quarantine and travel precautions, and were provided lodging accommodations and products that helped keep their risk low for Covid-19 throughout their internship.
In the end, the Guild interns collected the data at Carolina Sandhills and Piedmont NWRs and uploaded it through the cloud so that the Director’s Fellows could do the data work, modeling, analysis, etc. in conjunction with Tall Timbers and the inventory data collected at CSNWR/ PDNWR. Refuge Manager Allyne Askins said “both of the interns were excellent – smart, industrious and eager!” and it was “great to see them working on this cutting-edge project.” In fact, an abstract with Lauren and Amy’s names on it was accepted for a presentation at the – now virtual – Biennial Longleaf Conference, sponsored by The Longleaf Alliance.
A little bit about our interns:
Amy Sofferin interned with us between her junior and senior years at North Carolina State University where she is studying Forest Management. Amy aspires to go into land management with the purpose of managing for wildlife habitat and said the summer working with the Forest Stewards Guild has “given me a great opportunity to assist the US Fish and Wildlife Service with collecting forest inventory data using LiDAR while also gaining wildlife management experience” and “that experience will give me the confidence to go back to school and into the workforce better prepared. I am excited to apply all I’ve learned to make a real-world impact.”
Lauren DeWitt grew up living and working on hunt clubs with her family in South Carolina and said that time working and playing in the woods, marshes, rivers, and fields helped shape her life-long love of biology, wildlife, and environment. Lauren is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with an emphasis in Ecology at Coker College. After completing her studies, she hopes to work with a public or private conservation and management organization and wanted to use this internship to increase her forestry experience. This was Lauren’s first forestry internship and she was very excited to get to learn about LiDAR and all its potential in the forest industry. She said it “took a little while to get the technology sorted out – but it was pretty easy and simple to take and upload the data once we got it working.” She said “we had to overcome a lot of obstacles but that’s normally how it goes when you’re trying to figure out something new but we persevered through it all and had fun while doing it.”
Both interns did a wonderful job this summer in difficult circumstances and we wish them all the best as they complete their education and enter the work force.
Please stay tuned to the jobs and internship pages at for opportunities with the Guild and our terrific partners. If you want to help recruit well-deserving and potentially interested students, or if you would like to apply yourself and have questions, please contact Mike Lynch at email@example.com or 608-449-0647.