WSU Intern's Experience Range from Flaming Weeds to Organizing an International Research Symposium
Washington State University agricultural education major Amanda Mattingly never expected the variety of experiences waiting for her as she started an internship at the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee this summer. One day she would be pacing through an orchard, wielding a propane torch and shriveling weeds to the ground. Another day she would be helping organize the second International Organic Fruit Research Symposium, ensuring that speakers from around the world had their presentations ready and loaded at the podium.
Mattingly is among a group of students who participated in the first internship program to bring undergraduates to all four of WSU’s research and extension centers, combining agricultural education with WSU’s land grant mission. David Granatstein, a specialist in sustainable agriculture and a member of WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources team, served as her faculty mentor.
Mattingly, who hopes to become an agricultural science teacher, embraced the great variety of activity in Wenatchee. “The more experience and knowledge I have, the more background I can give my students and the more believable I’ll be to my students.” Amanda was also excited about the opportunity of working with other scientists at the research center, including WSU's apple breeder and an entomologist.
Flaming weeds was an especially thrilling part of the internship, according to Mattingly. “The second time, there were a lot of dead weeds so there were a lot of fires that I needed to stomp out.” She also assisted orchard weed control research trials by spreading landscape fabric and wood chip mulch. Her efforts helped the R&E center scientists compare different weed control methods.
Granatstein praised Mattingly for her skill in flaming weeds, but reserved his highest praise for her contributions to the International Organic Fruit Research Symposium, held in nearby Leavenworth. She ensured a smooth flow to the proceedings by obtaining the presentations from the speakers, arranging them and having them ready for show time. “We had people there from Chile, Argentina, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and quite a few from China,” said Mattingly. “Amanda was there every day, front and center,” said Granatstein, “and that really made it run smoothly. People from around the world saw great things, and that’s really good for WSU’s reputation.” She also took the lead in preparing the electronic proceedings to the symposium. Mattingly used software to capture the live presentations and edit the files to improve their flow, and then had the presenters approve the recordings before posting them online.
Seeing the various presentations gave her an appreciation for the complexity of agricultural science, and the scientific rigor necessary to grow high-quality fruit. “One little thing can affect so many things,” she said. “The variety of tree and rootstock, how much water is in the soil, and how much microbial activity is in the soil. You think of agriculture as such a simple process but you can go deeper and deeper and deeper. It’s almost never ending. Everything is always connecting back to something else.”
“I probably couldn’t have put this symposium on as well as it went without the kind of help Amanda brought,” said Granatstein. “Most people wouldn’t have had a chance to put together an international symposium, but if you’re going to be an educator, which is what Amanda is thinking about, you learn some pretty interesting skills doing that.”
Additional internship stories and information <http://academic.cahnrs.wsu.edu/experiential/>