Sustainability and the Environment Internship: Nature Interpretation for ProNativas, by Samantha Stovall, University of Colorado Boulder
Throughout the past month I worked alongside botanist, author, and illustrator, Willow Zuchowski to enhance the conservation of tropical forest biodiversity by supporting the activities of ProNativas, a non-governmental organization dedicated to the preservation of native plant species. I mainly focused on increasing the educational potential of a local plant garden, New Forest Park, through interpretive signage. I also worked with the other ProNativas intern, Kendall Rauch, to assess the sustainability of past CIEE – ProNativas internship products, create maintenance plans for them, and refurbish an epiphyte display in the greenhouse at Bajo del Tigre. The main beneficiaries of my work are the students and locals that use New Forest Park, and also ProNativas. Increasing educational signage, expanding gardens, and addressing the sustainability of existing gardens are critical actions in helping to achieve the goals of ProNativas.
This project sparked my interest because of its focus on native flora of Monteverde. Living at the Biological Station nestled in Monteverde’s unique cloud forest during the preceding semester, I fell in love with the incredible biodiversity it houses, and became incredibly passionate about its conservation. Having the chance to work with Willow Zuchowski gave me an incredible opportunity to expand my knowledge about plant taxonomy, interactions with fauna, as well as cultural uses of native plants. The internship was also appealing to me because it allowed me to work hands on with plant identification, challenge my artistry, and educate others about the value of native plants.
During this past month, I have learned more about plants, thought about the longevity and sustainability of products, and challenged myself to expand my horizons. When creating the design for my signs, I chose to illustrate some of the plant specimens, which sparked a desire to explore an untapped side of my potential, and improve my artistic capacity. I also created a site analysis of all the existing plant species in New Forest Park, which further developed my ability to identify plants. This project also encouraged me to think about the importance of environmental education, and the best way to inform the public of the value of conservation through the use of native ornamentals. I am grateful for this internship opportunity because of the diverse set of skills it provided me with through my work with Willow and ProNativas’ other cofounder, Felipe Negrini.
My greatest accomplishment was increasing the educational capacity of New Forest Park through the implementation of my interpretive signage. This leaves a lasting impact on this native plant garden, which will hopefully spread the message of ProNativas about the value of natives, and urge people to be mindful about what the plant in their own gardens.