Natural Resource Management Internship at Colorado Mountain College
The Natural Resource Management internship provides students with a unique opportunity, to directly interact with environmental professionals while obtaining relevant field and laboratory experience including field monitoring, sample laboratory analysis, data entry and report writing.
Current and past students of the NRM internship program have proven themselves to be exceptional students at CMC and in four-year institutions. Graduates of the NRM internship program have excelled in their respective academic departments, using their ability to apply hands-on fieldwork to classroom knowledge.
The NRM internship program has been involved in over 50 environmental projects with partners such as:
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
- U.S. Forest Service (USFS)
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
- U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
- Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW)
- and many other agencies, local governments, private firms and individuals since 1999
These projects have provided extensive opportunities for students with:
- Surface and groundwater sampling, water quality analysis
- Soil sampling and soil analysis
- Fen characterization
- Snowpack surveys
- ASTM Phase I Environmental Site Assessments
- Timber stand assessment and thinning
- Forestry management plans
- Streambank restoration
- Environmental risk assessment
- Mine reclamation
- Aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem characterization
- Flora and fauna inventory
- Wetlands delineation and inventory
- Threatened and endangered species inventory
- Grant writing and administration
Students directly interact with professionals in the field, providing additional educational and networking opportunities.
USFS Abandoned Mined Lands
The NRM program has performed site characterizations, data collection, and/or Preliminary Assessments/Site Inspections (PASI) on 17 sites for the US Forest Service (USFS) Abandoned Mined Lands (AML) Program on the White River National Forest. These projects include a full range of data collection and analysis of soil and mine waste, surface and groundwater, spatial data (GPS and GIS), historical research, and reporting.
USFS Fen Characterizations
Recently, the NRM program has been working with the White River National Forest to delineate and characterize fen wetlands that are located in critical habitat areas. A fen is a type of wetland that is fed by groundwater, maintaining saturation throughout the year, and is composed of histosol soil greater than 40 centimeters. The NRM internship has visited over 120 potential fen sites throughout the Forest. In 2013, 25 of 89 potential fen sites were characterized as fens, and many had rare plant and bryophyte species.
Download/view the USFS Fen Characterizations Brochure (pdf)
Sugarloaf Mountain Mining District BMP Performance Monitoring Project
The goal of the Sugarloaf BMP multi-year monitoring program was to determine the effectiveness of the implemented Dinero Tunnel Bulkhead Best Management Practice (BMP) in Sugarloaf Gulch, a tributary to the Lake Fork of the Arkansas River. Monitoring included extensive bi-annual hydrologic and biologic monitoring. Hydrologic monitoring included collecting surface and groundwater discharge, in-situ water quality parameters, and sample collection for isotope, total metals and dissolved metals analysis at more than 50 sites.
Biological monitoring occurred each year on the Lake Fork and included sampling benthic macro-invertebrates (BMI) to monitor diversity and abundance as well as fish shocking to monitor species length and weight distributions of fish. These parameters will determine if reduced metal loading due to BMP implementation increases the aquatic health of the Lake Fork. This project was made possible from the cooperative efforts of CMC NRM, USGS, US BLM, CDRMS, CPW, CDPHE, Trout Unlimited, and the Lake Fork Watershed Working Group.
Download/view the Sugarloaf Mountain Mining District BMP Performance Monitoring Project Brochure (pdf)
Bighorn Springs Wetland Monitoring
In collaboration with Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA), NRM has performed baseline monitoring of the Bighorn Springs Wetlands in Nathrop, Colorado, which will be followed by long-term monitoring of the site. Tasks include vegetation transects and species identification, soil sampling, GPS data collection, well water depth monitoring, and grazing management observations.
In addition to reporting, a Bighorn Springs Wetland Plant Identification Guide has been produced to increase the education and monitoring efficiency of future NRM students. The NRM program has also been tasked with managing cattle grazing at the Bighorn Springs site, which will utilize adaptive holistic management in order to increase the bighorn sheep habitat at the site.
Ruby Mountain Springs Site Reclamation
On an adjacent property to Bighorn Springs Wetland, NWNA contracted NRM to design a reclamation plan for a historic fish hatchery. Reclamation of the site included the removal of all man made features and implementation of a natural pond and stream ecosystem. This reclamation will increase wetland area at the site, produce fish spawning habitat and create water fowl habitat. Additionally, the site will serve as an outdoor educational site for local students.
This project has included historical documentation of the site and its history as a fish hatchery, vegetation identification, site reclamation planning and construction permitting. The reclamation and habitat improvement has been extremely successful. There is an abundance of wildlife and native plant species thriving at the site.
Download/view the Ruby Mountain Springs Site Reclamation Brochure (pdf)
Lake Fork Watershed Plan
For the Lake Fork Watershed Working Group (LFWWG), NRM has completed a watershed plan for the Lake Fork. This project, partially funded by Colorado §319 Non-point Source Program, included extensive data collection and compilation, data analysis, the creation of maps, spatial analysis, identification of data gaps, the creation of a comprehensive monitoring program, and an evaluation framework. This document can be found on the Lake Fork Watershed Working Group pages.
Download/view the Lake Fork Watershed Working Group Brochure (pdf)
Bioengineering Streambank Restoration
The bioengineering streambank restoration project on Union Creek near Leadville, was an innovative pilot project to demonstrate bioengineering techniques using soil lifts and willows to stabilize an eroding streambank. The design incorporated living and non-living soft structures such as pine bow fascines, and willow cuttings. As part of the project, students traveled to the Bitterroot River in Montana to work on a similar project and learn the bioengineering techniques.
Download/view the Bioengineering Streambank Restoration Bruchure (pdf)
Little Frying Pan Water Quality Improvement Project
Through the procurement of §319 Non-point Source Program funding NRM has created hydrologic controls to reduce hydrologic contact of snow-melt and storm run-off with the Tiger Mine waste piles which will in effect reduce the Acid Rock Drainage (ARD) originating from these piles. Monitoring includes measurement of discharge and water quality parameters, in addition to the collection and analysis of stream samples for total and dissolved metals from Little Frying Pan Gulch to determine the effectiveness of the hydrologic controls and improvements in water quality.
This project is part of an overall effort by CMC NRM, US BLM, CDRMS, Trout Unlimited, and the LFWWG to reclaim the Tiger Mine Complex in order to improve water quality.
Native Plant Study Pitkin County Open Space
Pitkin County Open Space and Trails (OST) acquired the Seven Star Ranch (292 acres) in 2004. The former cattle ranch land was dominated with “an-extremely low floristic diversity and was instead dominated by a non-native agricultural grass, crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum).” Over a two-year period, NRM researched eight methods for the eradication of the invasive species. OST will be implementing the successful test strategy to eradicate the grass on the Seven Star Ranch as well as some of its other land holdings.
Following the eradication effort, the following year, OST will broadcast a locally gathered native upland seed mix in order to increase plan biodiversity and attract birds and wildlife.
Download/view the Native Plants Studies (pdf)
Rocky Mountain Fen Research Project
The Rocky Mountain Fen Research Project (RMFRP) is a study designed to explore innovative approaches to mitigating impacts to mountain fens. A fen is a special type of wetland that takes 1000s of years to develop. Impacts to fens cannot be satisfactorily mitigated according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The City of Aurora Utilities Department and the Board of Water Works of Pueblo partnered with the NRM program to develop a research project to investigate potential means of successfully mitigating fen impacts. The project is administered and facilitated by the NRM staff with a technical team overseeing the development of the project.
The technical team includes a fen expert, a hydrologist/water rights engineer and a remediation construction representative as well as members from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers, US Environmental Protection Agency and NRM. This study will bolster the scientific knowledge of fen mitigation on many fronts including restoration, enhancement and transplantation. Many of the components of the project will be applicable not just to fen impact mitigation, but to compensatory mitigation in general, thus increasing the significance of the project.
Download/view the Rocky Mountain Fen Research Project Brochure (pdf)
California Gulch Superfund Site - Site Wide Water Quality Investigation
For approximately 25 years, the US EPA has undergone significant efforts to remediate environmental degradation caused by historic mining practices on a watershed-scale within the California Gulch Superfund Site. Currently, the site is within the later stages of closure. Thus, to test the efficacy of the remediation efforts, NRM students and staff have been tasked to monitor water quality conditions throughout the watershed. Sampling efforts were designed in order to characterize water quality and metals loading during snowmelt runoff and precipitation events through snow water equivalency (SWE) monitoring, synoptic surface water sampling, and through point/non-point ground and surface water source sampling.
As part of this effort, CMC NRM has constructed a comprehensive data tracking database for all samples, the associated in-situ water quality, site photos, site maps, sample tracking and shipping information, and for the analytical data that corresponds to the collected samples. This enables the EPA, their contractors and other regulators to access the information on a real-time basis. This project is ongoing, with a start date of May, 2000.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife Big Horn Sheep Tracking
Bighorn sheep are a priority species for Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). CPW tracks the animals via radio collars. A recent pilot study was conducted to collar, tag, and monitor neonatal bighorn lambs to determine causes of mortality and devise appropriate herd management strategies. NRM students assist CPW biologists with vaccinating and running ultrasounds on pregnant ewes.
Didymo Sampling on the Frying Pan River with the Roaring Fork Conservancy
Didymosphenia geminata, commonly referred to as “didymo,” is a freshwater diatom, a type of algae that lives attached to rocks and other substrates on the bottom of streams. The impact of didymo on the Gold Medal fishery in the Lower Frying Pan River and subsequently the Roaring Fork River is currently unknown. Student interns characterized the presence and absence of didymo throughout the Lower Frying Pan River and identified potential management strategies for reducing the occurrence and persistence of the algae.
STEM Education for K-12 Students
NRM partners with the Lake County School District, Summit County School District, and at-risk inner city Denver youth (Colorado Uplift) to provide science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education to students from 1st through 11th grade. Students are mentored by NRM interns and get to participate in activities like owl pellet dissections, GPS scavenger hunts, macroinvertebrate sampling, rock hounding, and water sampling.
Discharge Measurements at Climax Mine for Freeport-McMoRan
Climax Mine partners with NRM for data collection of seeps and springs across their property. NRM interns measure discharge using velocity meters, cutthroat flumes, and volumetric sampling devices.