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Almost Feels Like I’m in Ashton

Hello, my name is Sydney Schmitter and I am a rising junior at Stanford University majoring in Earth Systems with a concentration in Land Systems. I spent most of my childhood in San Diego, California, where I formed a deep connection to the ocean whether it was through digging for sand crabs, breaking my finger boogie boarding, or watching bioluminescent tides. My mom used to be a marine biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service and I grew up listening to stories about her tackling monk seals and bathing in the ocean. These experiences, along with camping with my dad once a month where I ran wild in the woods smashing acorns and terrorizing my sister, developed a long-life passion of mine for environmental conservation. In high school, I spent my time working at UCSD’s aquarium, conducting research on tidal flow in estuaries, and working on several non-profit community farms.

At Stanford, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to deepen my knowledge of the earth sciences and become part of a strong community of environmentalists. My transcript includes classes like “The Social Ocean: Human Dimensions of Coastal and Marine Ecosystems”, “Feeding Nine Billion”, and “Land Justice: Unearthing Histories and Seeding Liberation”. I’ve also had the chance to plan the 9th Annual Stephen H. Schneider Memorial Lecture featuring my environmental hero, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, through my involvement with Students for a Sustainable Stanford, and lead Stanford’s SEEDS chapter which introduces underrepresented identities in conservation to hands-on environmental learning opportunities.

When my college posted an internship opportunity with the Henry’s Fork Foundation, I was immediately drawn to HFF’s collaborative approach to watershed management and feel so lucky to be this summer’s Education and Interpretive Center Intern. My main task this summer is to curate two new exhibits for the Interpretive Center, which so far include ideas like an augmented reality sandbox, an aquifer recharge model, and an interactive story map detailing HFF’s new South Fork Initiative. Along with my main project this summer, I will be quantifying visitor experience and demographics in the Interpretive Center, managing intern blogs and social media, and planning a summer river cleanup on the Lower Henry’s Fork.

Pictured above is HFF’s Henry’s Fork Country Interpretive Center, which I will be commissioning two new exhibits for this summer.

Although my internship with HFF is remote and I am part of the minority that is not able to be in person on the Henry’s Fork, I feel so welcomed to the HFF community. My mentor, Education and Outreach Coordinator, Kamberlee Allison, has made me feel valued and part of the HFF team since my first day on the job. My days have typically consisted of contacting museums around the country for inspiration, drawing up potential models, and reaching out to HFF staff for feedback. Along with my daily duties, I have had the chance to learn R and more about the hydrology of the Henry’s Fork with Rob, meet with HFF board members and stakeholders, and learn more about Brandon’s view of the future of the Henry’s Fork Foundation.

In my spare time, I’ve been enjoying the outdoors and taking advantage of San Diego’s great weather. I’m at the beach more days than not, whether on walks, watching the sunset, or going for a quick swim. With California loosening COVID-19 restrictions, I’ve been camping and fishing with friends on the weekends and playing a lot of pickleball and tennis. Although I’m not physically able to be at the HFF Community Campus, I feel so lucky for skills and mentorship I’ve gained so far this summer and hope to make it up to Idaho one day!

Left: I’ve been spending my free time exploring California and camping with friends. This is a photo of me from Joshua Tree National Park, if you look closely I’m wearing a HFF t-shirt! Right: Photo of the sunset at Grandview Beach, one of my favorite spots in San Diego.

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