Fostering a Love of the Land as a LandPaths’ Intern – An Interview with Calvin Howell

Category: Blog, Internship, Staff, Stewardship, Volunteer

By LandPaths Staff

May 23, 2023

A person sits in a field of grass, holding a notebook and look outside of the frame.

This internship has allowed me to be in good hands, in terms of practical skills and built relationships. And it’s taught and challenged me in how I think about the land.

Calvin Howell

Photo by Emmaline Jones – Willowflower Photography

An internship is an excellent way to get involved with LandPaths in diverse ways. In this first installation of a new interview series about what it’s like to intern at LandPaths, we sat down with Calvin Howell. Cal just wrapped up an eight month long internship at LandPaths as part of his graduate work in environmental policy. Over the course of his time at LandPaths, Cal worked across initiatives, getting to know the organization inside and out!

How did you first hear about LandPaths? 

When I started looking for conservation organizations to work with in Sonoma County, there were so many to choose from! LandPaths’ name had come up over and over, particularly in the recommendations of friends. The volunteer days made getting involved and meeting staff very accessible for me! 

What made you decide to become an intern here?  

I had been looking for field internships for some time as a part of the completion of my graduate program in environmental policy. I was hoping for a project that could allow me to work in the field and in the community as much as possible. LandPaths had such an inspiring attitude toward the power of hands-on work, as well as the willingness to take on a newbie. I knew that’s where I wanted to be, and I’m so grateful for it! 

What were some of your favorite parts of being a LandPaths’ intern?  

There were too many to count! Getting to see so many different faces of Sonoma County through the preserves, especially as a returning resident, was such a ‘welcome home’. The best part by far however, was the people I got to know through LandPaths. I was met with nothing but kindness and support from staff and volunteers, and being trusted to represent the organization in my own ways was a privilege. I hope to maintain many of the friendships I made there.  

A meme - Calvin is standing in a wide field and the caption says, "Cal is Out Standing in His Field."
Did your connection to nature in Sonoma County and/or sense of belonging in nature grow over the course of your internship? How?  

Absolutely. Having lived away for many years, one of my primary goals in the work was getting reacquainted with the Sonoma County landscape. I feel I’ve had some great teachers over the last 7 months! I still have a lot to learn, but getting to participate so directly in everything from pile burns to wildflower identification has allowed me to engage in a very intimate relationship with the land.  

How has doing this internship positively impacted your life?  

In addition to allowing me to complete my degree, and being an otherwise super fun way to spend the last half-year, I think this internship was an excellent way for me to begin a career in conservation. Such a place-based trajectory requires a lot of patience for learning about your surroundings- ecologically, socially, politically. This internship has allowed me to be in good hands, in terms of practical skills and built relationships. And it’s taught and challenged me in how I think about the land. It’s comforting to be surrounded by people wrestling with the same questions you are. How can we better take care of each other? How can we better take care of our home? 

For people thinking about volunteering with LandPaths but haven’t made the leap yet – what would you tell them about your experience?  

It’s easier than you think. I think many people hesitate when it comes to volunteer work because it’s scary to try something new. But the secret is, staff want to have a fun day just like you do! The field staff at LandPaths is super knowledgeable, and volunteer days are often more about learning, practicing, and getting to know one another than anything else. At the end of the day, we are all mostly looking to have an enjoyable day outside, meet new people, and do positive work on the land. What could be better? 

10 people stand and smile, holding folders and clipboards in front of a forest at a LandPaths' preserve.
Calvin (back row, third from left) with LandPaths’ volunteers and stewardship team during the Sudden Oak Death Blitz at Bohemia Ecological Preserve.

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