The Beginning of My Career in Land Conservation: An Internship at River Source

By Gabriel Vasquez

In the first week of the internship things started off slowly as we got a feel for the internship and got to know each other as coworkers. The next day we began the real work to find out how to fix flooding problems in the Santa Fe River. We learned how to use a laser level and our skills of observation to notice small attributes that have crucial implications. These factors can create a safe, flood-proof watershed and support a clean and healthy environment.

The next day Carlos shared about the spiritual connection between Native Americans and the land that we live on. We tested the water to see if it was a suitable habitat for our native trout, the Rio Grande cutthroat, and to see if it was suitable for non native fish such as rainbow trout and german brown trout. We then measured the stream-flow by finding its velocity and cross-sectional area. One of my favorite parts was finding macro invertebrates, such as caddis fly larvae and other larvae, under rocks in the river. Later we took out some invasive plants that were outcompeting the native plants by taking up lots of the water and nutrients. We put colored flags by native plants to signify that they were to be protected. To prevent invasive plant seeds from spreading  we sheared the seed pods off the plants and placed them in a bag.

The next day we discovered how to use stormwater runoff to sustain plants that support different ecosystem functions such as attracting pollinators and growing food for birds and animals. We used barriers and small divots in the ground to allow water to soak into the soil. We also calculated the potential rainwater runoff from a parking lot and designed a rain catcher to naturally irrigate local plants.

The next day we completed some work to create natural barriers that slow down rainwater runoff. We accomplished this by cutting dead juniper branches and placing them perpendicular to runoff flows. This allows the water to slow down and increases the abundance of vegetation. This internship was a great learning experience and It has helped me personally pursue my career as a land conservation officer. I cannot wait to see what I discover next!