An intern's summer of mine work

Will McDermott standing atop the Wolf Shaft near the historic Kirwin Mining district outside of Meeteetse, Wyoming.

Note: In 2017, for the second consecutive year, TU’s Colorado Abandoned Mine Land Program was able to bring on a summer intern. The previous year, TU worked with Colorado School of Mines professors to select an undergrad environmental engineering student for the program. This intern helped out during the summer construction period and retained valuable field experience not attained at comparable programs. However, the real selling point for continuing the internship program to 2017 was the subsequent scholarship award and other internship she was able to attain because of her TU experience. For 2017, TU project managers selected the Denver University Environmental Science program for the intern pool, and the applicants did not disappoint.

Will McDermott was selected as the summer intern for 2017 and wanted to share his experiences while working this past summer in Colorado. Thank you, Will!

– Jason Willis, TU Colorado Mine Restoration Project Manager. 


By Will McDermott

This summer I was granted the amazing opportunity to intern with Trout Unlimited’s Abandoned Mine Land team in Colorado. I heard about this job when Lauren Duncan, a project manager with this team, gave a presentation about their mine cleanup work to my Water Resources and Sustainability class at the University of Denver. In her presentation, Lauren explained the scope of TU’s mine reclamation work in Colorado and its importance for environmental restoration and water quality.

This really opened my eyes to the possibilities of jobs in the environmental sector and encouraged me to learn more about mine restoration projects. Miraculously, only a week later an email came through our geography department mailing list asking for applications to work with TU’s team as an intern.

This opportunity helped to reinforce the scientific skills I had learned in past classes as well as introduce new skills needed for organization and implementation of projects and grants, which I had effectively no experience in. Over the summer, I was offered the chance to work both in the field with sampling and stabilizing these abandoned mine sites, as well as learn what happens in the office that makes these projects possible and realistic. This internship exceeded my expectations on both spectrums.

The first day of the internship, I was able to get involved right off the bat. We sampled a plethora of stream locations and measured discharge in the Fourmile headwaters, an area that flows down toward the city of Boulder and poses the threat of serious degradation from upstream mine sites.

Work like this exemplified how this internship was different; I was allowed to work as part of the team with my recordings being trusted and my help appreciated. It really was a good feeling that helped me to trust and respect the team members I worked for and with. The following week had me going out to job sites in the field as well as learning how grants are written and projects managed while working from coffee shops and libraries. For the rest of the summer this was the enjoyable norm, usually 2-3 days a week in the field and a couple days catching up on office work, attending meetings, and planning ahead. I was also given freedom to learn some mapping skills as well as collaborate with people in many sectors, including private contractors and U.S. Forest Service employees. While most of the work transpired within a couple hours of Denver, this job also allowed for travel to Wyoming to understand the scope of work in the region. This weeklong sampling and informative trip to the Cody and Meeteetse areas of Wyoming showed this team’s dedication to improving the health of the Earth outside of their own community.

I couldn’t be happier with my experience working for TU’s Abandoned Mine Land team. The internship helped me to expand and sharpen my skills with measuring and sampling data, communicating with coworkers and other collaborating companies, as well as practice critical thinking and planning. I also enjoyed working outdoors, while helping improve the lives of many communities as well as the health of ecosystems and wildlife populations.

I encourage all students to seriously consider this opportunity with Trout Unlimited and to contact me with any questions you have!


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