The first day on the job as a Virginia Department of Forestry intern took Mitchell Doss ’21 to Brookneal, Virginia, with one of his supervisors.
Their task: To check some land that had been clearcut, a form of tree removal in which the majority of trees in a specific area are cut down.
“We started at the opening gate,” Doss said. “He went one way, I went the other, and we walked it. It’s clearcut, but there are trees they didn’t take. There are briars. It’s not a trail. You’re in a thick cut of land, and it turned out to be 94 to 95 acres.”
Doss spent his four-week internship working with the VDOF’s professional foresters and technicians. Assigned to every county and city in the state, their duties include providing forest management advice and other landowner services, wildfire protection, and timber harvest inspections to ensure water quality. They also offer education to the people of Virginia.
“It’s a government agency serving the people,” Doss said.
On another day, he assisted foresters in Amherst County, who were surveying land using a drone—which offered Doss the chance to use skills he gained at an earlier internship with the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville.
“I’ve worked with drones before, taking in data and doing flyovers,” Doss said. “It was pretty cool that I was able to bring in my work from a previous internship to my current internship and turn some heads.”
He was one of six students chosen for the VDOF’s immersive, four-week program, which started June 10 and included fellow interns from Virginia Tech, James Madison University, William & Mary, and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
“Mitchell’s internship is providing him with practical experience with the policies that apply to landowners and public forests, understanding best natural resource management practices, and helping him expand his technical skills in forest surveying,” says environmental studies professor Karin Warren, Doss’s advisor. “Internships with agencies such as the Department of Forestry are a great stepping stone to state-level government jobs after graduation, too.”
Doss, an environmental science major, said the field work he did this summer gave him a good idea of the kind of job he’d like to pursue after graduation.
“I could see myself being out of the office 90 percent of the time, going from job to job, managing myself, and doing good work,” he said, comparing it to the college experience. “Your parents aren’t there to manage you. Your teachers aren’t there to manage you. You are doing your own thing, and it determines whether or not you succeed.”