Out West student blog

The benefits of the outdoors, far from the outdoors

Christina Macintosh on a hike in Marin. Image credit: Catherine Beck

By Christina MacIntosh '22
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Major: English
Intern, The Natural History Institute

 

I have learned a lot from this position in my first six weeks, not only through the research I have been conducting for the organization, but also about the process of working remotely in general, as this has been my first internship since the pandemic began. One basic, but important, lesson has been about finding environments conducive to productivity – always the San Francisco public library always, sometimes coffee shops, never the apartment where I live with four friends. The work itself feels like it has elements of both consulting and marketing. I’ve helped work on recommendations for internal changes that could be made to the organization, but also have worked on a lot of external-facing material, such as taglines and hooks that will help engage more supporters. Because NHI is a small organization at an exciting juncture in its trajectory (it’s about five years old, so it is currently moving on from its “start-up” period), I’ve gotten to see the inner workings of a small organization, which I have greatly enjoyed.

The focus of my internship of late has been creating a compendium of information about the importance of the NHI’s work, to be used for future development initiatives. This required me to read a lot about the benefits of spending time in the outdoors (for children, communities, mental and physical health), as well as what makes the Mogollon Highlands – where NHI is located – an interesting region. Although I was already sold on the importance of nature to a healthy and meaningful life, reading study after study on the topic reaffirmed this belief and, consequently, my commitment to NHI’s mission. 

An interesting product of the position being remote, however, is that I have never actually been to the Mogollon Highlands. While in some ways it seems strange to wax poetic about a place I’ve never visited, it is not too out of the ordinary given the fact that NHI’s programming has been opened to a wider audience since much of it has gone online in the past year. The organization now has supporters all over the U.S. and beyond, who appreciate the American West from afar as well as practice natural history in their own environments. I can count myself among this population. It’s also a product of the times to be working for an organization devoted to spending time contemplating nature while living in San Francisco, where my apartment is a mile from any kind of green space. I have, however, been able to take weekend trips to Tahoe and Marin, so I am still getting quality time in beautiful Western lands. On these trips I have begun to develop my own natural history skills; I look forward to a time where I am able to put them to use in the Mogollon Highlands.


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