McKinleyville Land Trust, McKinleyville, CA
This summer, I had the opportunity to work with the McKinleyville Land Trust, a non-profit dedicated to land conservation and management in Northern California. The organization has quite a unique story of origin: it was started in 1994 because of the response of local residents to the development of a shopping center in McKinleyville and its potential impacts on the adjacent Mill Creek area.
In years past, the McKinleyville Land Trust has maintained connections within the community, garnered volunteers, and raised money through traditional, non-virtual means of communication. Newsletters, in-person fundraising events, and group volunteer days were key to the sustainability of the organization and the continued maintenance of properties. In light of Covid-19, much of my work centered on increasing their online outreach to constituents, updating their website, and updating mailing lists. In addition to online outreach, I helped the organization with all of their archival records, creating and organizing an online storage space accessible to all board members. One of the most rewarding projects, however, was collaborating with three board members to create an interpretive walking tour for the main property, Mad River Bluffs. Made accessible through a QR code and an easy image download, our guided walking tour was able to provide visitors with geomorphologist and forest ecology-backed information about the surrounding landscape with the freedom to design your own path. This project was not only an opportunity to explore new ways the McKinleyville Land Trust can encourage visitors to engage thoughtfully with the land, but will remain an ever-changing and editable piece of literature that the organization can continue to update.
Managing multiple projects under the oversight of different board members, working virtually, and living in a new place were all challenges at first—they all required creative problem solving and effective online communication and planning. Traditional ways of interacting with colleagues were replaced with more removed and virtual methods. What I found helped me, both in terms of productivity and to ground myself, was to establish a daily routine that clearly separated my workspace and work-time from the other facets of my life. In addition, I found that scheduling regular interactions and check-ins with my intern supervisor and colleagues was key to maintaining a strong work-rhythm.
Having the opportunity to work closely with experts in the field of natural sciences was an incredibly valuable experience in terms of career orientation and future course selection. Not only do I have a better idea of the type of career path I would like to pursue—more policy-driven environmental work—but throughout the course of my internship I continued to be inspired by the level of passion and commitment the organization has for the long-term health of the land. Every action, no matter how small, is intentional and worth it. I would like to thank the board members of the McKinleyville Land Trust for their guidance and continued support throughout my time in California. I would also like to thank the ’68 Center for Career Exploration team and the friends and family of Ellen Toll ’77 for this experience.