Student Stories: Intern persuades landowners to protect watershed

Justin Kauffman let his love of hunting, fishing and the outdoors guide him to the right Penn State major and to a meaningful internship helping to protect natural resources.

The York, Pa., native graduated from the College of Agricultural Sciences in December with a degree in Environmental Resource Management and a minor in Watersheds and Water Resources.

He interned with the Conewago Creek Initiative, a collaboration between Penn State Extension and environmental groups aimed at improving water quality in the Conewago Creek watershed. Its goal is to engage local residents and landowners to increase awareness of water-quality issues and encourage adoption of land-management practices that will improve water quality of local streams.

That ensures healthy farms, forests and communities, Kauffman said, protecting and maintaining quality of life. And because Conewago Creek is a tributary of the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay, the initiative could provide solutions for improving water quality downstream as well.

"I started looking at environmental degrees and found that Penn State had a great program that is well established," he said. "I also was attracted to Penn State because it is a large school, and a lot of my friends and family attended the university. It offers great networking opportunities."

Kauffman believes he was the perfect student for this internship because of his previous experience in the area. "I had prior connections with the region and knew its geology and how to deal with its landowners," he said.

Kauffman previously had interned with a stream-restoration firm and with the Codorus Creek Improvement Partnership, a nonprofit watershed group, in York County.

He worked under the director of the Conewago Creek Initiative on projects in the watershed, which spans Lancaster, Lebanon and Dauphin counties.

His responsibilities included everything from project development and management to scheduling meetings and events. "I worked on a monitoring plan to identify indicators and quantify our results so we could show the success of our actions," he explained.

Kauffman believes the work with the initiative strengthened his public-communication and time-management skills. "My favorite part of the internship was the freedom I was given to creatively develop new ideas that the organization could use," he said.

His post-graduation plans were to enter the work force, but graduate school is an option. Ultimately Kauffman would like to run an environmental consulting firm and give guided hunting and fishing tours on the side.

Last Updated December 20, 2011