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Appalachian Conservation Corps


ACC Celebrates its Members for AmeriCorps Week

March 21st, 2024 | Mount Crawford, VA — AmeriCorps celebrated its 30th anniversary last week and Appalachian Conservation Corps, among other Corps nationwide, celebrated its members who are serving communities and public lands here in the Appalachian Region.

ACC has ran over 100 seasonal conservation crews since its founding in 2016 and facilitated 178 individual placements at national parks, battlefields and nonprofits across the Appalachian Region. Our crews are gearing up for their spring and summer seasons while 21 individual placements are currently serving at parks across Maryland, Virginia and D.C.

As part of AmeriCorps week, we highlighted some of our interns and crews:

Kristian is an Interpretation intern serving at Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park at its Williamsport location. He helps create and deliver educational programming to visitors of the Canal. “My background in ecology and ability to speak multiple languages allowed me to connect to a broader audience, fostering understanding and enjoyment of the Canal's history and resources,” Kristian said. “As a first-generation Latino, I highlighted untold stories within the Canal's history.”

One of those projects was a poster presentation that explained the intertwined history of African Americans, both free and enslaved, surrounding the Potomac River and C&O Canal. Another explored women’s crucial contributions to the Canal as lock keepers and captains. During peak season, Kristian led boat tours that explored the relationship between natural resources and the Canal. He even got to help the park’s natural resources department on its annual bat survey.

“However, the most rewarding aspect of the internship was the people,” Kristian said. “This internship expanded and strengthened my passion for working with natural resources. While most of my experience is in ecological field research, educating and inspiring park visitors highlighted the importance of outreach within conservation. The C&O Canal internship has given me valuable skills, a newfound perspective, and lifelong relationships.”

Julia also serves as an Interpretation intern for Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park at its Great Falls location. Right now, Julia is working on a guided nature walk along one of the park’s trails to connect visitors with local trees, wildflowers and animals and introduce them to ecological concepts like floodplain habitats, decomposition, invasive plants and seed dispersals. She plans to make the tour into a booklet available at the Visitor Center. Other projects she’s worked on include pop-up programs about invasive plants and the African American community around Great Falls during the Canal era, self-led Discovery Room activities on nature writing and surviving the winter as a plant or animal, and a website page about fish in the Potomac River and C&O Canal.

“My favorite part of my internship has been seeing visitors connect with and learn from the programs I made,” Julia said. “Whether it's an in-person interaction at a pop-up table or reading what a visitor wrote on a talkback board in our discovery room, it's fun to hear how I can change perspectives and facilitate visitor connections to the natural and cultural resources at our park.” The professional development opportunities throughout her internship have also been valuable, she said. Park staff have helped her with federal resume writing and navigating USAJobs, she’s shadowed the natural resources team on surveys and meetings, and she’s been able to get trained in Wilderness First Aid and take classes that will lead to her Firefighter Type 2 Qualification.

After finishing her internship, Julia is pursuing her M.S. in Sustainable Forest Management at Oregon State University, where she will help research fuel load and wildfire risks.

ACC’s 2024 Summer Saw and Trail Crews began training early March to prepare for their three-month seasons working with land managers throughout the Appalachian Region. Members will help improve visitor access points, construct and maintain trails, remove invasive species, restore habitats, and more by the end of their terms.

IP member Veronica returned this year as a Lead Intern for our Invasive Plant Management team, which helps eradicate and treat non-native plant species in the National Capital Region of Washington, D.C. After serving as a member last year, Veronica felt ready to take on the leadership role for this year’s cohorts.

“After one year of experience, I have a good understanding of why, when, and how certain management techniques are used, how to ID target and non-target species, and the use and maintenance of field equipment,” Veronica said. “At the same time, I haven’t forgotten what it was like to know very little about this work last year!”

Veronica’s duty is to understand what the parks and program supervisor are requesting and then lead the team of six interns to accomplish those tasks. The team started field work a few weeks ago and is focusing on treating lesser celandine (Ficaria verna) and incised fumewort (Corydalis incisa), both herbaceous forbs. “We treat these using herbicide in backpack sprayers, where we spray while walking in a gridding pattern across a designated area,” Veronica said.

Veronica enjoys the “cut stump” method to tackle woody species. To do this, they use tools to clip, hack or saw a species down to its stump and then treat the stump with herbicide. Some of the species they cut stump are bush honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), porcelain berry (Ampelopsis brevipeduculata), and autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata). Aside from that, Veronica has enjoyed fielding the new interns’ questions, since she remembers asking the same questions last year.

Hannah works as a Science Communications IP with the National Capital Region’s Inventory and Monitoring network to write articles and create other communications materials about natural resources. Since starting her internship in September, Hannah has authored two articles: Forest Regeneration 2023, which gives an update on forest regeneration and threats to regeneration in the region, and When Forests Come Down with a Bug: Forest Pests in the Greater DC Area, which describes and gives the status on common and invasive forest pests threatening forests in the region. Hannah has also updated existing resource briefs on deer recovery, amphibian monitoring, and Ash tree densities in the region.

Currently, she’s working on developing web content related to the dual emergence of periodic cicadas coming this summer. “This is a once in a lifetime (happens only every 221 years!) event where a 13-year brood and a 17-year brood are overlapping, producing an amazing abundance of cicadas in a portion of the Midwest, mostly southern Illinois. I am really looking forward to this project because my research in my master's degree was focused on insect diversity, so insects are a passion project of mine,” Hannah said.

As much as ACC helps connect young people to conservation efforts, we also strive to connect members to careers in the conservation field after their term ends.

On Friday, we highlighted some of our recent alumni’s success:

Micki served on last year’s Invasive Plant Management team where she treated invasive plant species and helped restore native species at sites surrounding the D.C. area. She is now working as an Urban Forester with the District Department of Transportation to inspect, evaluate and manage urban tree populations.

Anthony served on ACC crews as a member and leader from 2019 to 2023. His crew helped build award-winning steps at New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. Now, he is a Wildland Fire Intern for Tahoe National Forest. “ACC expanded my horizons to opportunities that I would have never thought possible,” Anthony said. “The projects I worked on and people I met along the way enabled me to develop a professional relationship with our public lands.”

Kalen spent three seasons as our Cultural Steward IP, where he learned about park operations at Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and helped work on a development plan for the native site Werowocomoco, which NPS hopes to establish as a public park one day. Since the end of his last term with ACC, he finished his program at Southern New Hampshire University with a bachelor’s in Environmental Science with a focus on Natural Resources and Conservation. “In November, I started a full-time position with the Captain John Smith National Historic Trail working both in the areas of Maintenance and Education focusing on the site of Werowocomoco (The Capital of the Powhatan Confederacy),” he said.

Last year, Skylar served as one of our Education and Interpretation interns at Shenandoah National Park, where she led interpretive programming for park visitors and educational groups. Prior to that, she served on an ACC Conservation Crew. This summer, Skylar will be spending the summer as a seasonal park ranger with Saint Croix International Historic Site in Maine.