July 26, 2017 – It’s been a summer of learning for Mainspring Conservation Trust’s intern, Guido Schutz.
The Elon University senior is part of the Conservation for North Carolina’s 2017 Diversity in Conservation Internship Program, an initiative created to encourage future conservation leaders by creating employment pathways to careers in land trusts and other agencies. Mainspring applied to be a host site, and Schutz was matched with the Franklin-based nonprofit to organize their Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data and be part of Mainspring’s aquatic biomonitoring crew.
But the 10-week internship has grown to much more.
“I’m glad that I’ve been able to do a little bit of everything at Mainspring this summer,” says Schutz. “In addition to my original duties, I’ve attended a Board of Directors retreat, snorkeled at an education outreach event, hiked, and treated invasive plants.”
Born in Germany, Schutz has also lived in Mexico and Argentina. A graduate of Farmington High School in Connecticut, Schutz had extensive travel experience, but not a lot of knowledge of western North Carolina. Through his work with Mainspring, he has a deeper appreciation of the uniqueness of the Southern Blue Ridge. “Spending this summer here has allowed me to learn about the diverse groups of plants and wildlife that make the area so special and I’ve enjoyed living in the mountains. I could see myself living and working here.”
Kelder Monar, Stewardship Associate at Mainspring, has been Schutz’s mentor this summer. Monar says Schutz brings more than GIS experience to his role. “Guido is enthusiastic and has taken every volunteer opportunity we’ve offered him, which helps him tremendously, but also helps Mainspring. His outsider’s perspective and fresh eyes enables our staff see our work in a different way, and we’ve benefitted greatly from having him here.”
As land trusts around the United States look to expand its supporters and grow to be a more diverse community, Schutz has contributed to Mainspring in a non-tangible way as well. “I think it’s important for conservation organizations to think about diversity because the fundamental thing they are protecting is the biodiversity of nature,” he says. “If everyone in the organization shares the same culture or views, there are elements that could be overlooked because it may not be seen as important in their society. Diversity and inclusion in conservation organizations allows for a unique blend of ideas and, ultimately, a global understanding of conservation.”
Schutz says he will leave western North Carolina with a newfound appreciation for Mainspring’s work. “Before I started working here, I thought the only thing Mainspring did was conserve land since it is a land trust. While they do conserve land, they do so much more that has a positive impact. I came into the internship looking to learn as much as I can about conservation and have learned even more by just participating in all the different things that Mainspring does.”
Schutz will complete his internship on August 4. The Environmental Studies major/Business Administration minor is on track to graduate next May, and plans to continue his education in Europe. He eventually hopes to have a career in the environmental field with a focus on renewable energy, sustainability, or conservation.
Funding for this internship was made possible in partnership with CTNC AmeriCorps, the Land Trust Alliance, and the United States Forest Service.