Spring intern creates strategic land protection database

Sam and Alex at poster session

This spring our land conservation department's intern Sam Vanspriell spent four months conducting complex analysis to help us identify land near the river that, if protected, could be key for habitat and water quality.

Sam's main project was the creation of a strategic land protection database for the Twin Cities metro. He had to think critically about data sources and data manipulation to compile a scoring metric for evaluating parcels to protect. He wrote complex 'R' scripts to help prioritize protection parcels based on four categories, helping to make sure our land protection work is firmly rooted in science and ecological theory. He also tackled side projects including creating a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) template for land conservation staff to use for improved map-making, and working to update FMR's land conservation site shapefiles.

Sam excelled at learning new GIS skills and applying his current GIS knowledge to new project topics. He is a great critical thinker, adept at demonstrating creativity to solve problems, analyze information and prioritize his work outputs. His work will help FMR streamline our internal GIS work and prioritize our land protection outreach with willing private landowners interested in protecting their land's biological qualities.

We're so grateful for his dedication this semester.

Sam's reflections

When I was looking for internships for the spring semester, what I really wanted was to put my technical skills in data science and GIS to work in the conservation arena, so when the opportunity to work with FMR came up, I was thrilled!

This was an amazing opportunity to hone my GIS skills in a very forgiving and flexible environment. The work format — mostly independent work with every other week check-ins — meant that I had to figure things out myself before bringing them to Alex to see what he thought. I also had great opportunities to work with other members of the land conservation team and gain some valuable wisdom through the informational interviews I did with staff members.

All in all this was a wonderful opportunity where I learned a lot, did meaningful work and got a chance to see inside the kind of organization that I would like to work for down the line. 

This internship was part of my last semester at Macalester College and was designed to give me a sense of what I would like to do in the future. Over the summer I will be working for the City of Minneapolis as an Environmental Health Technician. But after that, I'm not sure yet, so if anyone reading this has any cool opportunities, send them my way.

FMR's career pathways initiative

As part of our career pathways program, we've expanded our capacity for hosting paid opportunities for youth and young people. Learn more about internship and ESI openings.

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