Internship stories of grassland habitat expert assistants


In the summer of 2023 five students from different parts of the world undertook internship as grassland habitat expert assistants in grassland habitat inventory and management at the Latvian Fund for Nature. We publish some internship stories.

Alexander Stehr from Germany

I am very satisfied with my choice to conduct the internship at the Latvian Fund for Nature. I am the only student in my semester to conduct an internship abroad, and I am glad I did.

The internship was a real outdoor-internship as we just had two days of office work. On the other working days, we were working outdoors. For me this was perfect, although the office days were nice as well, because we as interns could work jointly in our flat. On our working days in field, we got the chance to see numerous nice sites in the Latvian grassland. Many of them were in a good condition, with a great species diversity. This way, I got to see many plant species that I had not seen in Germany before. Just the beauty of the locations makes it worth for me to return to Latvia in future days.

But there are many other points that will never let me forget the internship. First of all, working with the other interns I did not know before, in an international context, was an experience I highly appreciate. We got along very well and had a lot of fun, also in our free time. Also, I liked a lot that the LFN organised some tours guided by an employee. This way, we could even see the regions of Latvia where we would not have come for work. Furthermore, we were able to organise one trip to Estonia as interns on our own.

After these three months you could even say that overall, I know Latvia’s landscapes and biotopes better than those at my home country, as we got to work or travel in so many different regions of Latvia.

Also, I got introduced a lot into Latvian culture and festivities. We were able to attend some great events at Riga’s song and dance festival. Another great experience was spending midsummer at the countryside at Lejzemnieki, together with some employees of LFN and their families. For me, the most memorable experience with Latvian culture were the sauna and the hitting with birch twigs, alternating with a jump into the pond. I highly appreciate that we also got introduced into some Latvian culture.

I also appreciate a lot that all of the Latvian colleagues were very kind and helpful, so that I could not think of any bad experience with them. I also value their enthusiasm for protecting nature and educating people in nature’s values.

The internship also helped me with my future perspectives. First of all, after this positive experience I could also see myself working abroad in the future. Moreover, after the internship I could also imagine to work as a habitat expert in the future. Apart from realising this, the internship also helped me with the knowledge I gained thanks to the internship. From my home University and because of personal interest, I already had some species and habitat knowledge before the internship. But in the 3 months I could amplify this knowledge a lot. Most beneficial for me was experiencing a hole summer of practical fieldwork. This way I could also see the downsides and what I still need to improve in me, but also the positive facts. One of these are definitely the fulfilling long days, and the time after it, when we could enjoy the villages or the countryside where we were staying for work.

All in all, I am glad I performed the internship at Latvian Fund for Nature and I would recommend the internship for everyone with an interest in fieldwork and plants. I could also see myself in another internship at the LFN in my master studies. Furthermore, I thank the employees of the LFN and the cooperating University of Latvia for the great and helpful work experience, but also for introducing us into their home and giving us enough space and time to get to know this beautiful country.

Sampling vegetation at Tukums area.

At Vakarbuļļi beach.

Meadow at Madona area.

Laura Legzdiņš from Canada

Hi, I’m Laura! I joined the Latvian Fund for Nature’s grassland restoration internship team for summer 2023.

This internship was particularly meaningful for me - I’m from Canada, but my family originates from Latvia, so this was an opportunity for me to advance my environmental career internationally and connect with my culture in a way I never could before, all at once. This summer made me fall in love with grassland restoration and Latvia’s natural beauty and culture.

The first few weeks we learned Latvian grassland plants so that we could spend most of our time identifying species and assessing their cover at different field sites. The level and variety of knowledge I gained here is unrivaled - we were mentored by grassland experts from LFN and a top grassland scientist from the University of Latvia. Occassionally we’d assist with invasive species removal, count Rhinanthus and help run Latvian Fund for Nature events. My favourite events were those where we explored grasslands with school groups - we spent most of the day pointing out cool species and giving piggyback rides.

What made this especially memorable for me were the people and experiences. So many times when we’d visit farms to assess their grasslands, we were invited in for lunch by the farmers who were always so hospitable. I had the best travel and work partners - I got to meet students from Germany who were also pursuing an environmental career, and they made work so fun. We got to explore Latvia together and made some of my favourite memories. We celebrated Latvian summer solstice (Jāņi), walked in Europe’s longest waterfall, had an authentic Latvian sauna experience, explored beautiful cities like Riga, Kuldiga and Ventspils and stunning natural spaces like Kemeri National Park and Abavas Senleja. We even got to witness a UNESCO World Heritage cultural phenomenon, the Latvian Song and Dance Festival, which gathers 40,000 people every 4 years to create the most breathtaking display of Latvian culture.

The LFN staff were extremely supportive, organized and kind - they helped us navigate life in Latvia and went out of their way to provide us with the best experience. They organized housing, monthly trips to see different parts of Latvia and were always so responsive to any needs. The Latvian Fund for Nature is pioneering environmental conservation in Latvia and I’m so grateful to have contributed to their meaningful work and received the experience of a lifetime as well! I can only recommend the internship - it’s been a life-changing opportunity.

Playing with schoolchildren in Valka.

Admiring the bog at Kemeri National Park.

Assessing grassland species composition and cover in a quadrat.

Maren Teschauer from Germany

For the summer period between my bachelor’s and master’s degree I looked for an opportunity to gather practical experience at nature conservation institutions. The internship at Latvian Fund for Nature immediately sparked my interest because it was all about grasslands: the species which grow there, the different management methods and how to restore them. Being an intern here allowed me to visit grassland habitats all around the country and train myself in species identification.

We worked with a lot of different people of the Latvian Fund for Nature. With Ruta we got to know the urban meadows of Riga. With Solvita we conducted scientific monitoring at different sites all around Latvia. With Evita we worked on wooded meadows and were drawn into the fascinating world of lichens and mosses. Besides fieldwork our coordinator Nora always made sure that we felt comfortable and had a great time exploring Latvia.

Most of the time our tasks were to assess the current state of the grasslands by identifying the plant species and monitoring further site conditions. Beyond that, we were provided with background information, how the management, the occurring species and the development of the areas are linked with each other. And as Solvita told us to do: We always took a little break during work to just admire and enjoy the meadow!

With their help, I learned a lot in this internship, and my aim is to focus on grassland restoration in my further studies. I’m looking forward to return to Latvia in the future and meet again with the Latvian Fund for Nature employees. I’m very curious to see how the areas, at which we worked this summer, will develop.

Taking photo of Campanula patula.