Welcome, new interns

  • HCN's newest interns posing in a classic Paonia Gothic stance.

    Stephanie Paige Ogburn

Two more interns have joined us for six months of "journalism boot camp." We're also delighted to announce that Emilene Ostlind, intern extraordinaire from the Summer/Fall 2010 session, is staying on as an Editorial Fellow.

When Sierra Crane-Murdoch was tagging birds in Vermont in 2007 to monitor their migration, she found herself more interested in writing about them than in memorizing their taxonomy. Fortunately, her studies in natural science at Middlebury College prepared her well for her true passion.

In 2009, a Middlebury Fellowship in Environmental Journalism sent Sierra deep into Appalachian coal country to report on retired miners fighting to save their land and communities from mountaintop removal mining, which wreaks havoc on streams and pollutes water supplies. While living below the largest coal sludge impoundment in Virginia, Sierra got to know the hardworking mountain people and their "complex love/hate relationship" with a resource that "killed them but sustained them."

It's that kind of nuance that drew her to the environmental stories of the West. Sierra, a native of Grafton, N.Y., sees her HCN internship as a "full-fledged adventure" and looks forward to learning from her coworkers. Her appreciation for topography will help her feel at home here in Paonia as she skis through Rocky Mountain powder for the first time.

Nathan Rice has been a wanderer since he left his hometown, Olympia, Wash., in 1997 to study at Willamette University in Oregon. He soon took off to hitchhike across the Lower 48, spent the next semester in Ecuador, and two years later, graduated from Western Washington University. In Idaho, he baked pizzas, and in Utah, he led wilderness therapy trips. He worked a series of wildlife jobs in Washington, tracking salamanders and salmon. One summer, he roamed alpine meadows in the Olympic Mountains trapping marmots. But he always loved to write, and a year ago, he settled on journalism.

"I got to a point where I really needed to use the right side of my brain," Nathan says. Science required him to dissect things into small pieces. Now, as a journalist, he has to put the pieces back together to make his stories whole. The beats he's followed as a freelancer have prepared him well for High Country News: a uranium mill in southwestern Colorado, oscillating glaciers off the Alaskan coast and theological responses to climate change.

Though still nomadic in spirit, Nathan is happy to live in a small town for now, particularly one so close to the desert and mountains. And he's determined to learn how to play that piano in the intern house.

The Austin family sent us an e-mail to let us know they'd stopped by our western Colorado office over the holidays. Rusty Austin wrote: "Hello HCN, our family (from Los Angeles) was enroute from visiting my father at his peach orchard and vineyard outside of Hotchkiss to visit with Julie's dad, who now lives in Glenwood Springs, when we stopped off in Paonia on December 26." He also enclosed a photo of the whole gang -- his son, David Austin; Rusty himself; David's wife, Michelle Boudreaux; Rusty's wife, Julie Austin; and Whisky the dog. Sorry we missed you all!

In the Dec. 20 "Heard Around the West," we ran a photo of the "painted trees" created by Salida, Colo., artist Curtis Killam. His last name is actually Killorn. Our apologies, Curtis. In our Jan. 24 story "The Hupa fish war," an editing mistake changed "12 miles square" to "12 square miles." The reservation is approximately 144 square miles. The map also incorrectly showed the Yurok Reservation (which runs along the Klamath River) as well as the Hoopa Valley Reservation.

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