Intern post #3: Sidney Vermeulen
Sidney was a Teen Leader this summer with KWP. Through this summer internship, she experienced the rigors of conservation field work, and was also exposed to science research, and worked with younger students as a leader with Waimea Middle Schoolʻs STEM Instead summer program.
For my first days with the Kohala Watershed Partnership this summer, we drove to the Koaiʻa Corridor to plant baby ‘ōhiʻa trees. I remember driving up the road looking out the window amazed at the size and amount of the trees that had already been planted. The last time I had visited the planting corridor was over a year ago on one of the volunteer days. I didn’t remember the trees being so large and so abundant. I hoped that the trees I had previously planted were alive and large like the ones we were driving by. For the first time I realized that maybe it would be possible to recreate a forest. Not just out-plantings of native trees, but an actual native Hawaiian forest.
When we arrived, we got our shovels, filled a bucket with saplings, and headed out. As I grabbed the young ʻōhiʻa, I was struck by their beauty. The leaves were red and green and they were shiny and healthy looking. Immediately I wanted every one of the saplings to survive. I realized just how special and beautiful these native Hawaiian plants were.
We walked into the planting area and began. It was hard work. You had to get each of the saplings planted beneath the roots of the grass, which is difficult because there are at least six inches of grass roots that you must dig through. Despite the difficulty in planting even one sapling, the job never seemed tedious. With each sapling planted, I felt joy knowing that these trees would outlive me and contribute to restoring the land to its previous splendor.
As we planted I talked and got to know some of the crew members and interns. Their stories of traveling to the Northwestern Hawaiian islands, or discovering a passion in mycology, or traveling to college to get a degree in watershed science, made me realize just how committed these people were to the work we were doing. I hope that one day I can find a similar passion and make a profession out of it. I know now how special Kohala and the people restoring it are, and am happy just to have spent a few weeks getting to learn from them.