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My Experience as an Urban Ecology Intern

By Ian Bobbitt

June 2, 2017

My name is Ian, and I was an Urban Ecology Intern at the Sacramento Tree Foundation for 8 months. I recently graduated from Sacramento State with a degree in Environmental Studies. While exploring employment opportunities after graduating, I found a volunteer opportunity at one of SacTree’s community tree plantings and ended up pursuing an internship with them shortly afterward.

SacTree initially impressed me with its mission and vision for Sacramento. They ultimately work towards the goal of developing a healthy, vibrant, and sustainable urban forest for our community. The trees that get planted in these neighborhoods are free for their residents and provide so many benefits for our community, such as healthier air, increased property values, better mental and physical health, and greater happiness. SacTree also plants mitigation trees in nature reserves and open spaces in order to reforest and rebuild habitat for local wildlife. Throughout the process, they work hard to build strong community engagement in order to tie the community together. SacTree’s focus on both community engagement and habitat restoration was what appealed to me most, prompting me to apply to join the SacTree team.

As an intern, I felt very fortunate because SacTree wanted me to be fully engaged in the organization. On my first day, at my orientation, we talked about my goals and what I wanted to get out of the internship. Afterwards, I was immediately involved in tree planting, nursery care, acorn harvesting, and many other activities that I had mentioned. I felt like the work I was doing was integral to SacTree’s mission and that I was really part of the team. I had the opportunity to work with lots of different staff members throughout my internship and participated in a variety of community tree plantings, where I got to talk with local residents and help improve our urban forest. I also went out with other interns to harvest the acorns we would need for SacTree’s various programs during the next year. Together, we went on beautiful nature walks and learned to discern healthy acorns from dead ones, as well as the various species of oak (both native and non-native) around the Sacramento area. In short, I was doing work that was meaningful and fun.

The work environment was also great. SacTree’s staff took on a strong mentoring role. Yet, at the same time, everyone was very friendly and warm. I was also able to work outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. Yes, sometimes I had to work outside when it was miserable -- but it made me enjoy the great weather that much more.

It was impossible not to learn during this internship. I practiced skills like tree care, nursery care, acorn viability, and identifying and caring for different species of plants on a weekly basis. I also learned about leadership, since I had to be able to engage volunteers – including keeping them on task and getting them to work as a team. I actually became more responsible during my time on the SacTree team as I represented them at events. Planning, calendar management, professionalism, talking to new people, teaching, and ensuring events went smoothly were all part of my responsibilities. These are skills I can carry into the workforce after my time at SacTree.

My work as an Urban Ecology intern planting trees and restoring lost or degraded habitat really made me feel like I was accomplishing something I could be proud of and look back on years later. It was a really enjoyable experience interning at the Sacramento Tree Foundation, and I’m thankful for the time and effort I put into it.