Using their GPS skills, Adams State University students Marli Crowther and Sydney Wiedeman traversed up and down slopes laid bare by the Spring Creek fire in 2018. Following maps and measuring small evergreen seedlings, Crowther and Wiedeman participated as Land Life interns in the reforesting of five different private properties across Huerfano and Costilla Counties, including Forbes Park HOA and Tres Valles West HOA.

“I’m going hiking and getting paid,” Wiedeman, a senior geoscience major, said. “I want a future career out in the field and this gave me a taste of that. My favorite part was asking the Life Land crew so many questions and learning about how many opportunities there are in my field.”

Land Life was founded on the shared conviction that business and technology can drive innovation to restore nature. Land Life has a diverse team of over 70+ professionals, with teams on 4 continents.

Private landowners in the region partner with Land Life to begin reforesting their area. Zoe Hall, North America Reforestation project manager at Land Life, worked with the students to teach about equipment, monitoring protocol, and begin monitoring tree growth. “All five of the interns from Adams State University were very professional, highly motivated and extremely eager to learn and make an impact.”

Marli Crowther and Sydney Wiedeman
Marli Crowther and Sydney Wiedeman

For Wiedeman and Crowther, making a positive impact on the environment is an important aspect for future careers. “Marli and I only want to be a part of an organization that aligns with our morals,” Wiedeman said. “Land Life is a company finding solutions to fix harm done to the environment.”

On October 12th, the Land Life planting crew finished planting 357,000 trees in the region, restoring over 1,200 acres of fire effected land this season. They planted Abies concolor, Abies lasiocarpa, Picea engelmanii, Picea pungens, Pinus flexilis, Pinus ponderosa, and Pseudotsuga menziesii. While in the field, Crowther mostly came across Pinus ponderosa (ponderosa pine), Pinus flexilis (limber pine), Abies concolor (white fur), and Pseudotsuga menziesii (douglas fir). “This was an extremely amazing experience and I would love to do it again,” Crowther said. “It was a lot of fun and I feel like I made instant friends with all of the people I met from Land Life.”

A Sanford native, Crowther graduated with highest honors in the fall 2022 commencement ceremony with a Bachelor of Science in geosciences/physical geography and conservation, and a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies/food studies. The second week of the internship Land Life scientists from Amsterdam, Spain, and California visited the planting and monitoring operations. “It was really cool to meet teams from different countries all working on the same goal,” Crowther said.

Wiedeman agrees: “It was super cool to learn about the other places the scientists had worked and about their backgrounds and how they became a part of Land Life.”

In the fall of 2022, Land Life completed the second year of multi-year reforestation in the Spring Creek Fire area. “It was really an amazing feat of effort that was accomplished and the internship was vital in our ability to implement a browsing deterrent experiment, monitoring of that experiment and doing over 100 monitoring plots,” Hall said. “All the students asked really thoughtful questions, took their work very seriously, and represented Adams State and Land Life really well in the field with our partnering organizations. A lot of learning and growth occurred during this semester.”

Sydney Wiedeman and Marli Crowther with Land Life team
Sydney Wiedeman and Marli Crowther with Land Life team

Wiedeman was finishing her last semester of eligibility on the women’s soccer team when she was hired as an intern. She was appreciative of Land Life’s flexibility with the interns’ schedules. “I only got to go out twice in the fall. I am hopeful to be back out in the spring.”

All the plots were chosen at random, to avoid bias. Some were on steep hills and others had easier access, with their GPS apps Crowther and Wiedeman would place a stick in the plot center; measure 10 meters out in a complete circle and sweep through the area looking for tree seedlings. Using the Land Life app they would add new tree types, and record visual damage and measure the seedlings in centimeters. They would also assess the plot for dead or natural regrowth for the entire plot.

The Adams State El Centro Sierra Blanca Title III HSI STEM grant sponsors the paid Land Life internships. Ken Marquez, Class of 1987 and 1994, is the grant director. Marquez worked with Land Life to design this opportunity for Adams State students. “The team administering the grant is just fantastic, very easy to work with and clearly passionate about what they do,” Hall said. The Title III STEM grant sponsors several other paid internships across the community.

For this work Hall often thinks about how the success of the project may outlive Land Life’s presence. Project design and training the next generation of conservation leaders to continue managing, promoting, and prioritizing healthy environmental use is crucial to that objective. “It’s been a pleasure to be part of that journey for the students we have been able to work with thus far from Adams State.”

Land Life plans to continue working with Adams State and Hall believes Adams State is preparing students to get jobs within their field. “It was nice knowing students were well supported financially and academically so that I could focus on our restoration efforts and training students in the actual work at hand.”

All restoration is done in close collaboration with Land Life’s partners, including the non-profit organization Ecoculture, local nurseries run by the Apache Nation and Navajo Nation, private landowners in the area, academic research Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona, and the Adams State interns. Land Life is excited to continue working and deepening partnerships in Colorado. To learn more visit Land Life.