USING their GPS skills, Adams State University students Marli Crowther and Sydney Wiedeman traversed up and down slopes laid bare by the Spring Creek fire of 2018. Following maps and measuring small evergreen seedlings, the Land Life interns participated in the reforesting of five private properties across Huerfano and Costilla Counties, including Forbes Park HOA and Tres Valles West HOA.

“I’m going hiking and getting paid,” Wiedeman, a senior geoscience major, said. “I want a future career out in the field and this gave me a taste of that. My favorite part was asking the Life Land crew so many questions and learning about how many opportunities there are in my field.”

Private landowners in the region partnered with Land Life to begin reforesting their area. Zoe Hall, North America Reforestation project manager at Land Life, worked with the students to learn about equipment, monitoring protocol, and begin monitoring tree growth. “All five of the interns from Adams State University were very professional, highly motivated and extremely eager to learn and make an impact,” Hall said.

For Wiedeman and Crowther, making a positive impact on the environment is important for future careers. “Marli and I only want to be a part of an organization that aligns with our morals,” Wiedeman said. “Land Life is a company finding solutions to fix harm done to the environment.”

On October 12, the Land Life planting crew finished planting 357,000 trees in the region, restoring more than 1,200 acres of fire-affected land this season. They planted Abies concolor, Abies lasiocarpa, Picea engelmanii, Picea pungens, Pinus flexilis, Pinus ponderosa, and Pseudotsuga menziesii. While in the field, Crowther mostly came across Pinus ponderosa (ponderosa pine), Pinus flexilis (limber pine), Abies concolor (white fur), and Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas fir).

“This was an extremely amazing experience and I would love to do it again,” Crowther said. “It was a lot of fun and I feel like I made instant friends with all of the people I met from Land Life.”

two adams state students standing together in helmets

Adams State students Marli Crowther and Sydney Wiedeman work as interns with Land Life. Their experience was funded through the Adams State El Centro Sierra Blanca Title III HSI STEM grant.

A Sanford native, Crowther graduated with highest honors in the fall 2022 commencement ceremony with a Bachelor of Science in geosciences/physical geography and conservation, and a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies/food studies. The second week of the internship, Land Life scientists from Amsterdam, Spain, and California visited the planting and monitoring operations.

“It was really cool to meet teams from different countries all working on the same goal,” Crowther said.

Wiedeman agreed: “It was super cool to learn about the other places the scientists had worked and about their backgrounds and how they became a part of Land Life.”

In the fall of 2022, Land Life completed the second year of multi-year reforestation in the Spring Creek Fire area. “It was really an amazing feat of effort that was accomplished and the internship was vital in our ability to implement a browsing deterrent experiment, monitoring of that experiment and doing over 100 monitoring plots,” Hall said. “All the students asked really thoughtful questions, took their work very seriously, and represented Adams State and Land Life really well in the field with our partnering organizations. A lot of learning and growth occurred during this semester.” 

Wiedeman was finishing her last semester of eligibility on the women’s soccer team when she was hired as an intern. She was appreciative of Land Life’s flexibility with the interns’ schedules. “I only got to go out twice in the fall. I am hopeful to be back out in the spring.”

All the plots were chosen at random, to avoid bias. Some were on steep hills and others had easier access. With their GPS apps Crowther and Wiedeman placed a stick in the plot center, measured 10 meters out in a complete circle, and swept through the area looking for tree seedlings. Using the Land Life app they added new tree types, and recorded visual damage and measured the seedlings in centimeters. They also assessed the plot for dead or natural regrowth for the entire plot.

The Adams State El Centro Sierra Blanca Title III HSI STEM grant sponsors the paid Land Life internships. Ken Marquez, class of 1987 and 1994, is the grant director. Marquez worked with Land Life to design this opportunity for Adams State students. “The team administering the grant is just fantastic, very easy to work with and clearly passionate about what they do,” Hall said.

Land Life plans to continue working with Adams State and Hall believes Adams State is preparing students to get jobs within their field. “It was nice knowing students were well supported financially and academically so that I could focus on our restoration efforts and training students in the actual work at hand.”

Land Life was founded on the shared conviction that business and technology can drive innovation to restore nature. Land Life has a diverse team of more than 70 professionals, with teams on 4 continents. All restoration is done in close collaboration with Land Life’s partners, including the non-profit organization Ecoculture, local nurseries run by the Apache Nation and Navajo Nation, private landowners in the area, academic research Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona, and the Adams State interns.

Slider photo: Adams State STEM interns work with Land Life professionals to monitor the reforesting progress on private properties affected by the 2018 Spring Creek Fire.