Intern Profile: Lauren McGue

We’re delighted to have Smith College senior Lauren McGue join us for a six-week internship at Pepperwood this summer.
Here’s what Lauren has to say about her studies and her future.

Intern Lauren McGue at Pepperwood Preserve

My name is Lauren McGue and I’m excited to be an intern at Pepperwood this summer. Las Vegas is my hometown, but I am entering my senior year at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, where my major is Environmental Science and Policy, and my minor is Philosophy.

Through the Praxis program at Smith, students receive funding to intern with an organization of their choice. I knew I wanted to study climate and phenology (the timing of plant and animal life cycles or behaviors), and because I spent my childhood visiting my relatives here in Santa Rosa, I figured its landscape would be a great place for climate research. When I talked with family members about my plan they told me about their friend, Wendy Herniman, a Pepperwood Steward who studies phenology at the preserve. Once I looked at the Pepperwood website, I was sold.

Global climate change and its sociopolitical impact is the focus of my degrees. I not only love to blend the disciplines, but think it is necessary to confront and analyze our current political and environmental situation with field research, data, and historical study.

For the past two years, I’ve enjoyed interning at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension in Las Vegas, where I worked with the head horticulturalist and Master Gardeners on the demonstration gardens and orchards, tending to the plants, photographing and mapping the garden, and helping with tomato plant research.

I have also enjoyed working with the arborists and botanists at Smith College, where I assist in the maintenance of the Botanic Garden’s indoor and outdoor collections and sort and send seeds through the Smith Index Seminum program.

After working with all kinds of plants, I can still say that I am deeply fond of the plants of the Mojave and the cactus family, Cactaceae, is my favorite —but I am also loving the diverse Mediterranean landscape of Santa Rosa.

During my internship I am working with Michelle Halbur, Preserve Ecologist, to look at how plants respond to climate and fire using data from the Pepperwood Phenology Project, which is part of the National and California Phenology Projects. I look forward to shadowing the phenology volunteers as they collect data and make observations on plants that have been monitored since 2013. At the end of my internship I will present what I’ve learned to Pepperwood stewards and staff.

I know I will learn much from the experts here at Pepperwood and this experience will guide me as I finish my undergraduate degree.

As for my future, I hope to pursue a graduate degree in either human geography, philosophy, or one of the environmental sciences. Climate change is a phenomenon so enormous and pressing that I cannot imagine myself pursuing a career in something unrelated. I am determined to continue to do research and forge solutions in my future and this internship will help give me the tools and experience to do so.

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