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Environmental internships provided experiential learning opportunities


A grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation supported environmental internships for nine Illinois College students.

“The Margaret A. Cargill Foundation’s grant, awarded in 2009, has allowed Illinois College to strengthen our environmental studies program,” according to Illinois College President Barbara Farley. “This Environmental Issues Internship Program has provided a wide range of additional experiential learning opportunities to complement students’ classroom learning.”

The following students conducted environmental internships in 2013:

Claire Barclay, a senior from Peoria, Ill., interned at the Japanese Center for Michigan Universities in Hikone, Japan. During her internship, Barclay was involved with the study of Asian black bears (Ursus thibetanus), an endangered species also known as the moon bear or white-chested bear. This internship taught Barclay how to prepare barrel traps to capture these bears so that radio collars could be attached or adjusted to monitor their behavior. Barclay learned the importance of tracking animals and how it revealed the sleeping patterns of bears in different elevations in the mountains. Because this internship was conducted in Japan, Barclay was also able to further her knowledge of Japanese culture and language.

Kelsey Davis, a junior from Heyworth, Ill., interned at Dominant Genetics in Wapella, Ill., where she helped raise deer to be sold to landowners to improve deer herd health. Throughout the internship, she assisted with birthing and bottle-feeding fawns, and tagging and vaccinating deer. Davis, with guidance from Quail Forever, conducted an independent study project in the second part of her internship to help restore the quail population in the state. She raised quail and, once they matured, released them on two farm properties.

Korrie Edwards, a junior from Peoria, Ill., interned both at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Naples, Florida, and at the National Key Deer Refuge in Big Pine Key, Florida. Edwards, a student researcher in the college’s Orchid Recovery Program, has a passion for rescuing endangered species. At the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Edwards tested different areas of the refuge to determine which locations would be the most suitable to plant orchids that she had grown in the lab at Illinois College. She also counted endangered sea turtles and monitored vegetation in their habitat. In the second part of her internship at the National Key Deer Refuge, Edwards worked alongside biologists to learn about protecting many endangered species including key deer, white-crowned pigeon and Miami blue butterflies.

Kayla Kolis, a junior from Springfield, Ill., interned at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield. Kolis worked under the direction of Chris Widga to develop a new technique to micro-mill and analyze mammoth tooth enamel. This work has yielded much more specific information on the annual patterns of the animals’ dietary habits, migratory patterns, as well as environmental changes that occurred during the mammoths' lifespan. Through her research, Kolis was able to understand and collect new information about the extinction of mammoths and other large Ice Age mammals. This research may also be adapted to aid the conservation of modern day, large mammals. Kolis has been invited to present her research at the International Conference on Mammoths and their Relatives in Grevena and Siatista, Western Macedonia, Greece, in May 2014.

Jessica Potter, a senior from Topeka, Ill., interned at Lake Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge in Havana, Illinois. During her internship, Potter, with the guidance of biologist Jake Randa, inventoried populations of the endangered Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis) and other species of bats, and helped restore bottomland habitat for their survival. Potter learned the importance of recording the activities of bats in order to determine which species dominate each location. She learned how to use stationary and mobile surveys to record bat activity. With the knowledge gained from the surveys she performed, Potter helped update the range and population status of these bat species. This information can be used to plan the next steps in preserving these endangered animals.
Andrew Schultz, a senior from Heyworth, Ill., interned at Whitetail Properties where he completed a variety of tasks across the business and created informational PowerPoints to present to the agents of the company. One webinar presentation discussed available government programs that provide environmental benefits to landowners. The other presentation taught the agents about the environmental benefits of land ownership and habitat management. Schultz worked with the Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service in order to present accurate environmental information for these webinars. Schultz worked alongside one of his supervisors, Jeff Evans, who presented the environmental data to the agents.

Chelsea Vabro, a senior from North Riverside, Ill., interned at The Conservators’ Center in Burlington, North Carolina, where she was able to learn how to rescue and rehabilitate animals from across the world. During her time at The Conservators’ Center, Vabro shadowed an animal keeper until she was ready to work on her own. Her tasks included basic care and husbandry of wild carnivores, operant conditioning, providing nutrition, design and construction of habitats, delivering conservation education programs, physical and chemical capture and restraint, and veterinary recordkeeping.

Matthew Murphy, a sophomore from Girard, Ill., and Caleb Gerdes, a sophomore from Franklin, Ill., interned at Starhill Forest Arboretum near Petersburg. These interns worked directly with the Arboretum’s primary scientific collection, a living reference collection of Quercus (oak trees), that has been recognized by the North American Plant Collections Consortium. Projects that Murphy and Gerdes worked on included redecking and replacing the beams of two large bridges at Starhill, and tagging trees and cataloging them in a GPS system in order to create an exact map of the Arboretum. They did a special project at Oakridge Cemetery in Springfield, Ill., where they tagged and logged GPS information for trees that have historical significance in relation to the life of President Abraham Lincoln. This information will be used in future arboreal tours at the Cemetery. Additionally, at Starhill, they assisted in maintaining and monitoring herbs and perennial landscapes, a native prairie garden, several provenance tests, containerized tree production, a rare tree nursery and conifer plantation.

About the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation
Margaret A. Cargill is the granddaughter of William Cargill, co-founder of Cargill Inc. The Margaret A. Cargill Foundation was created upon the philanthropist’s death in 2006 and assists programs that reflect her passions and priorities including the environment; the arts; services to families, children and the elderly; disaster-related relief, recovery and development; planned health; and animal welfare.

About Illinois College

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is a residential liberal arts college fostering academic excellence rooted in opportunities for experiential learning while preparing students for lifelong success. The college is located in Jacksonville, Ill. With an enrollment of about 1,000 students, the college offers over 50 undergraduate programs and a Master of Arts in Education degree program. In 1932 the society of Phi Beta Kappa established a chapter at Illinois College, and it remains one of only 11 in the state.

Illinois College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

Visit or call 217-245-3467 for more information.

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