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Summer Intern Spotlight: Allison Leone

As summer semester has fully come to a close, and Fall semester classes are in full swing, we to highlight and celebrate our excellent summer interns that help make the Field Center what it is! Read to learn more about Summer Biological Field Intern, Allison Leone, her favorite thing about working at the Field Center, her advice for getting a field-based internship, and more!

A person posing with a large square structure above their head in a field
Allison working on prairie transects this summer

1. What is your educational background?

I am a Biology major, Chemistry minor, class of 2023.

2. What is your favorite aspect of the Field Center?

My favorite aspect of the Field Center is the hands-on learning and the experience of getting to see and do many of the things mentioned in my classes. Over the course of the summer, we got to see first hand how our native wildlife changes, and I had never gotten to appreciate or see how much change happens in such a short period of time. Not once this summer did it feel like I was “going to work/school;” I was heading out to the Field Center to see how the plants on the prairie have changed this week or freeing up space for native plants by clearing honeysuckle, and it was really rewarding and fun and I learned a lot while doing it.

3. What does a day at the Field Center typically look like?

A typical day at the Field Center does involve waking up early, but it is worth it to get out to see all the early morning birds and critters still hanging around before it gets too hot. We will then meet up and decide what task we want to focus on that day; this could be going out into the fields to identify and record plants in iNaturalist, collecting plant samples to make herbarium specimens, honeysuckle clearing, flowering plant sampling, as well as meeting and working with various local partners on their projects or our own. We recently started mounting our dried plant pressings from earlier in the season and learning of how herbarium specimens are made.

4. What is Your Research Focus?

My research focus was first inspired by my time at the Field Center. I had taken Environmental Field Techniques over the summer and we did a lab on wetland delineation. I remember being in awe at how detailed soil typing is and interested in how different soil compositions interact and allow the water to pool and allow for the survival of aquatic plants and animals. Currently, we are working with The Great Parks and several other partners on a wetland restoration and have had the opportunity to conduct percolation testing and several different soil tests for their project and learn more about how they view a site that is to be restored.

5. What Field Center plant or animal is your favorite?

Picking one favorite is so hard, but early in the season it would have to be a blue jacket; it has a blue-ish hued stem and super cute purple flowers. My all time favorites are swamp agrimony, a member of the rose family with fern-like leaves; wild potato vine, a vine with heart-shaped leaves and white flowers with a purple-pink center; and swamp smartweed, a small thin stem with tons of tiny pink flowers crowning the top

6. What is your favorite way to spend time in nature?

My favorite way to spend time in nature is walking along creek/stream beds and seeing what you can find. On nature day, we found loads of baby crayfish in Howard’s Creek! There are also some minerals like flint, quartz, and pyrite, along with some neat fossils to see.

7. Do you have any nature-related resources or media that you would recommend to our readers?

Your Inner Fish by Niel Shubin. The book is written by the paleontologist and professor of anatomy who co-discovered Tiktaalik, in which he describes the evolutionary history of the human body by comparative anatomy, and traces each body part back to fish. There’s a bunch of pictures/graphics to show you how each part moved/changed over time and it reads like a friend is telling you all about their cool research; it’s not like the typical journal or novel read, it really got me hooked!

8. Do you have any advice for students interested in field-based internships?

Environmental Field Techniques and Urban Ecosystem Research are two courses I know of that have field work built in, but if you find yourself really enjoying a class and wanting to learn more, reach out to your professors and ask about research or further continuing your studies!


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