Thursday, August 3, 2017

CCT Volunteer Anna Osborn 2nd Blog Post (FORRU)

I can’t believe I have less than 2 weeks left interning for FORRU, these past 6 weeks went by incredibly fast. A lot has changed since my last blog post, but one thing that hasn’t is how much I enjoy working for this organization. I have attended more field trips, been assigned specific projects to help with, learned even more about forest restoration, and continue to see the beautiful scenery Northern Thailand offers.

                The past 4 weeks since my last post have been a mix of data work, field trips, and various tasks around the FORRU office. I was able to help care for the seedling nursery we have outside our office. I spent an afternoon doing seedling care for around 300 seedlings which included picking weeds, refilling the dirt to each individual seedlings, and watering them...basically I was gardening, which I enjoyed (the only part I didn’t enjoy was the heat that day)! Other tasks include entering data into spreadsheets for our bosses, making seedling identification tags for planting days, and attending meetings for the education events. Although field trips and my individual projects are a bit more exciting, I recognize this work is very important!

As for my individual projects, I have been assigned a task of assisting a professor in Chiang Mai University with a project she’s doing with forest restoration. She is in the process of working to figure out which tree species could survive in Thailand regardless of changing climates in the future. She traveled to a herbarium in England to research the diverse tree species in various countries in Asia. She collected pictures of the data she recovered and brought the information back to Chiang Mai to continue her project. I will be helping her transfer information from pictures she has to data sheets on the computer so it is accessible easier. The pictures are snapshots of information tags included with each tree species. These tags include collector, collection date, description of where the species is located, and description of the habitat where the species grows. However, these tags date back decades old, and on occasion, over a century old. It can be difficult to gather the information on the tags due to illegible handwriting or not enough information provided. Although, it is really interesting to learn of all the different species in various Asian countries and even learn more about the geography and habitats of Asia. The professor’s project is a long process but the translation of the information tags will be a start to her succeeding in her research.

Another individual project I have been assigned is updating the FORRU website projects page. The project page has two categories; recent projects and previous projects. I’m working to move projects that have been completed to the previous project folder and add the project outcomes and final reports to them as well. I also am adding new projects to the recent project page and updating the current projects that are still in the works. I have met with professors and various people heading each project to get more information on what they have accomplished and what they're working to achieve. This is cool because while I’m working to update the website, I am also learning about projects FORRU has done with forest restoration before I came to intern for them. I’m able to understand which part of the projects were successful and what did not go as planned, which is helpful to know in the world of environmental sustainability.

Away from individual projects, I’ve attended more field trips. A few weekends ago I participated in a planting day in Mae Takhrai National Park but this time I was the volunteer (this event was not put on by FORRU but the organization Flight of the Gibbon). During this planting day we planted around 4,500 trees with hundreds of volunteers. This past weekend we did another planting day, this time put on by FORRU at Tham Pa Thai National Park (3 hours southeast of Chiang Mai!). We left on Friday and helped with the controlled planting of various tree species all afternoon on Friday. After the work day, we spent the night in a cabin located inside the national park due to the national park being far away from Chiang Mai. Saturday was our big planting day. We planted over 3,000 trees this time. It was hot and a long day, but very rewarding. I love being outdoors for my job, it’s always in beautiful national parks and I am able to see more of Thailand. I also am able to participate in hands on experience, which is beneficial. One of my favorite parts about the planting event in Tham Pa Thai was our adventure ride to the planting site. We drove 30 minutes to the site through backcountry roads in the bed of a pickup truck. We passed several rice fields, beautiful luscious mountain views, and went through the forest in order to get to the site. It was a once in a lifetime experience to say the least. Not only was planting the trees really cool, but also all the breathtaking scenery I was able to see. I definitely could not have asked for a better summer internship.

During my time at FORRU, I also helped with an education event. Around 30 Thai high school students came to learn about forest restoration. This day began with an information session on forest restoration and was followed by a hike to Doi Suthep (a mountain in Chiang Mai). Although the information sessions and guided tours were in Thai, my super awesome Thai co-workers helped translate it for me so I could understand what was going on - which I’m very thankful for! After the hike we did various activities with the students, which provided a fun way of learning about this topic. They were able to engage and do group work to understand all the information they obtained. It was really cool and such a good idea, I would love to see this kind of thing happen for American students back home! They also have these education events for younger students and college aged students, which I think is awesome. Educating students on the importance of environmental sustainability can be really helpful for the future of our planet.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I have to reiterate how awesome my coworkers are. They’re so fun to be around and are so passionate about forest restoration which is a great vibe to be surrounded with for the summer. Over the past few weeks I’ve gotten to know them more and more and love that I can call them friends. I’m really thankful for FORRU and my summer in Thailand. This place is amazing and this organization is great work for anybody with a desire to help the environment.

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