Prairie Partner Intern 2007

Stephanie Judge with her daughter, Ayla

Stephanie Judge with her daughter, Ayla

Graduated University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2010

Current position: Land Protection Specialist for The Nature Conservancy (Madison, WI)

Favorite memory of the program: I don’t have a single favorite memory because I look back at the whole experience fondly. I had the privilege of growing up in the woods and waters of Central Wisconsin along the banks of the Wisconsin River. I was outside everyday as a kid, but as I got older and completed my first college degree (BA-2003-Journalism & Political Science at UW-Madison), I’d moved away from my roots. The Audubon internship got me back outside and back in nature in a new region with which I was much less familiar.

The internship gave me so many firsts that are all excellent memories. I had never walked through an oak savanna until our first day on the job when Tom and Kathy Brock walked us through their wonderfully-restored Pleasant Valley Conservancy. I reconnected with wildlife, finding badger and fox dens out at The Prairie Enthusiasts Mounds View Sites, snakes and Blandings turtles elsewhere, and the thousands of salamanders that hatch out of Goose Pond around the end of July. It was hard, hot work, but it really pretty magical.

Impact of the program on your academic and/or career path: The Audubon restoration ecology internship was one of the most formative and valuable experiences of my life. It laid the foundation that supported all of my later academic work in Landscape Architecture and the knowledge I gained that summer continues to inform my career today. I only took one day off during that summer of 2007, and it was to stop by TNC to drop off my resume. I knew I wanted to work for TNC, that they’d offered a work-study position for the previous academic year, and that with the Audubon experience under my belt, I was much better equipped to apply and better suited for a job. I started at the Conservancy as a work-study student in October of 2007 and have been with TNC since.

How you used what you learned in the internship in future employment: It’s hard to quantify what I learned during the internship because I learned so much, and that knowledge is so intertwined in everything I do today. My work for TNC brings me to many different landscapes where I interact with people from all different backgrounds who have questions about their land and how to handle various challenges. The Audubon internship gave me real-world experience that taught me hundreds of native plants, and of course so many invasive plants too. Until this internship, I was blissfully ignorant of the prevalence and ravages of invasive plants like garlic mustard, reed canary grass and all the others. After the internship, I was well-prepared to accurately identify non-native plants and suggest a range of control mechanisms. I also had a really good handle on a effective restoration strategies for prairies, savannas, woodlands and wetlands. Besides learning so much, I also met great people like Mark and Sue Martin, who are so very admirable for their excellent and ongoing work at Goose Pond and beyond.