Geography & Environmental Studies at Aquinas College


Geography and Environmental Studies students have gained practical experience through a variety of internship opportunities over the past several years.  Some students have participated in Aquinas’ Mohler-Thompson summer research program. Others have secured internships with the City of Grand Rapids (GIS), Blandford Nature Center (Land Stewardship), Pierce Cedar Creek Institute (Grassland Management), and even in the field of wildlife rehabilitation at Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary in North Carolina.  

Ryleigh Wehler (Student Conservation Association)

I served my first Student Conservation Association (SCA) term in Wellston, Michigan, as a Wilderness Ranger Crew member for the United States Forest Service within the Huron-Manistee National Forest. I worked in the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area north of Ludington State Park, which includes over 3,500 acres of federally protected land. We patrolled the wilderness area daily, collecting Survey123 regulation violations location data. This enabled us to track areas where violations were common. By the end of the season, our group had collected over 1,000 data points, created a story map, and compiled a presentation for the public. This data (collected throughout the year) is vital in making management decisions within the wilderness area. During my internship, I also received kayak training certification, CPR/First Aid certification, an understanding/experience in turtle telemetry (see photo), and made professional connections within the Huron-Manistee National Forest District. This internship gave me useful insights into what it is like to work for a public entity such as the U.S. Forest Service.

Adam Pall (Bay City Electric Light and Power Company)

This past summer I had the pleasure of working as a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) intern with the Bay City Electric Light and Power Company (BCELP). I worked in the Geography Department of BCELP with two other interns (one from GVSU and the other from Central Michigan University). As GIS interns we had two main projects that we worked on over the summer. The first, was to collect GPS data on individual property owners’ power meters. The second project used geographic software (ArcCollector) to locate and update utility pole number tags. In addition, we were tasked with uploading the data into the company’s database management system and editing the data. The data that we collected and edited will be used by linemen and other personnel employed by BCELP in order to help make their jobs easier.  This was a good learning experience!  It helped me develop my skills for real world applications, as I pursue my degree in geography with a concentration in geospatial technologies at Aquinas College.

Elizabeth Waltzoni (Pierce Cedar Creek Institute)

I spent my summer at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute for Environmental Education (PCCI) in Hastings, MI through the Steeby Land Management Fellowship. Along with another fellow, I worked with the Stewardship Department on PCCI’s 742 acres of land to learn about using land responsibly. We did something new every day: helping with a prescribed burn, growing native plants from seed, monitoring water quality, clearing trails, visiting other restoration sites, learning about pesticide application, controlling invasive species, mowing lawns, leading volunteer workdays, felling trees with chainsaws, and even participating in a day of goose banding in Lansing with the Department of National Resources. In addition, my research partner and I completed a small research project on tree species composition and density in a number of forest plots; I created a map of our findings in ArcGIS, which will be used by PCCI to measure their progress towards restoring a type of native habitat called the oak savanna.  Through this experience, I learned a great deal about native species and environments in Michigan, how our actions affect the life around us, and the hard work that stewardship requires. I understand the importance of responsible land management, and I have the applied skills to make it happen. My fellowship experience at PCCI exposed me to the world of natural resources and gave me a clear idea of where I hope to go in the future.