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Intern Spotlight: Nick Shepherd (Geo-Launchpad)

Tags: internships

This summer we’re introducing interns from URISE, RESESS, Student Career, and Geo-Launchpad programs to highlight their research projects and how EarthScope programs further their career goals.

Nick is a Geo-Launchpad (GLP) intern from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Nick currently studies forestry at Front Range Community College, and his project this summer incorporates his interests in forestry, hydrology, and geochemistry.

Nick’s project explores the impacts of acid mine drainage on forests and the surrounding landscapes. He will use different scientific tools to gather data, and later will use RStudio to perform a statistical analysis of the data collected. A thorough analysis will allow for a better understanding of which factors, including pH, turbidity, conductivity, and iron content, have the greatest impact on the surrounding landscapes. Since trees absorb chemical elements and compounds from the soil for nutrients, an excess  or shortage of certain elements or compounds can either help or hinder the health of the tree. Thus, gathering data on these factors and statistically analyzing them allows Nick to determine how to mitigate the toxic properties of the water and soil to promote tree health.


  • How did you hear about this program, and what piqued your interest?

I came across this program while looking at the Front Range website, actually. It looked like a great opportunity, and it seemed very fun. I saw I could learn a variety of topics, not just geology, but hydrology as well. I wanted to focus on hydrology, so that’s what really got me interested.

  • What’s been your favorite part of your internship experience so far?

I haven’t officially started my project yet, but my favorite experience so far has been talking with other PhD students about how we can solve certain environmental problems and how I can work towards my career goals. Also, going to the Mountain Research Station has been one of my favorite experiences so far.

  • How does this internship fit with your career goals?

This internship is helping me to learn more about chemistry and how I can tie that into hydrology. Since I’m a forestry major, I want to focus more on the hydrologic aspects out in the field. I want to work with water and how that affects trees, tree health, and forest health. Learning more about chemistry helps me to better understand how I can help improve water quality.

Apart from his interests in forestry and geoscience, Nick loves to workout, be outside, play sports, read books, and cook. He enjoys spending time at the library searching for books he finds interesting, and his favorite meals to make (and eat) are salmon and vegetables or a taco salad. At the conclusion of his internship, Nick plans to travel to the South Dakota Badlands to camp with friends before returning to school in the fall.