As exciting as High School can be, often the routine of school, homework, sleep, repeat gets monotonous. Fortunately, our high school presents a unique opportunity twice a year to break that monotony and do something different for a month. We get to take unique classes, or take on an internship opportunity. Our something different was working as Junior Environmental Interns at Fernbank Museum of Natural History, which proved to be more of an interesting experience than we had imagined.
Every day, we arrived at Fernbank at 1:30pm and didn’t waste any time getting back into the woods. It was so refreshing, even in the frigid temperatures, to breathe in the fresh air and appreciate the beauty of the overlook forest the museum has to offer. As soon as we had our gloves and bags in tow, we’d descend the earthy path down the hillside into the woods and start pulling English Ivy that covered the ground and trees alike. We learned that English Ivy, although commonly used for decoration, is actually considered an invasive species in our region of Georgia. This means that, if left uncontrolled, English Ivy could expand to cover the grounds of the forest and up through trees—strangling them—as well as, blocking sunlight and resources from ground plants. Now, don’t get us wrong, ivy is a beautiful plant, but it is definitely something that needs to be regulated for the sake of the forest. And that’s where we come in. Every day, vine by vine, we pulled the ivy off and out of the ground, freeing the soil and native plants from their pest.
From this important non-native invasive species removal, we’ve truly come to appreciate the value of environmental conservation. Not only is the environment breathtaking on a larger scale, but up close you can see the smaller thriving plants and organisms that call the forest their home. Also, this forest and many like it around us provide valuable resources we sometimes take for granted. Tree roots help prevent soil erosion and keep our world in place. Forests play a valuable role in the water cycle, without which nothing could survive. Trees, of course, provide us with oxygen in the air we breathe every day. Invertebrates in the soil help break down and recycle organic waste compounds.
The realization that by pulling ivy we could make a difference in keeping a forest healthy and functioning made doing this job everyday almost effortless. Combined with being outside in a beautiful environment, being active and doing things with our own hands, and spending time together as friends and making new friends at the museum, working at Fernbank Museum of Natural History has been an experience we will never forget.
Fernbank offers many volunteer opportunities, including restoration, throughout the year. Learn more about Fernbank’s volunteer program.
Griffin, Sandy and Sam, Junior Environmental Interns