One question, and versions of this question, I cannot stop thinking about is, “how does this internship connect/tie into history?” Family and friends ask me this very question as I tell them about this internship. The easy, short answer is it is connected to environmental history, the changing landscapes, and the identity of America’s National Park System. The not so easy and even shorter answer is I do not know.
Reflecting on this challenging question, it makes me think closely about the definition of history, both in an academic interpretation and the professional interpretation of the word. When thought about most broadly, everything and everyone embodies history; it is all around us and impacts our daily lives, whether we think about ancient past events or yesterday’s activities. Within this definition, my internship with the Vegetation Crew is directly related to history.
The goal of the Veg Crew is to provide scientific guidance and execution of that guidance to restore natural resources to areas disturbed by humans, as well as to manage and remove invasive plant species. In order to accomplish this, careful consideration of the environmental history of Rocky Mountain National Park is required. For example, how have humans interacted with the landscape throughout the 10,000 years of continued human occupancy of the area? How, historically, have visitors interpreted the use of the park and how are their expectations shaping decisions made by park staff to restore specific locations within the park? What plants are considered natives and what plants are considered invasive? Each of these questions requires historical analysis and research to fully understand. Each question can inform academic history research papers or even theses. Each of these questions impacts how the park interprets its history and how it will design its practice. In short, how it designs its history.