Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

The sabbatical project continues, exploring all that Tyler Arboretum has to offer

What an internship is like at Tyler Arboretum


I learned last month that Tyler’s Director of Horticulture Mike Karkowski had four undergraduate students join his crew as summer interns.  Some students from Penn State Brandywine have served as interns or completed independent study projects at Tyler – Abbey Dufoe was a Communications Intern and completed a Google Earth project on the Tree Houses, Victoria Bolden was a Horticulture intern, Lauren Orner and Zanya Stephenson did a GPS/Google Earth project on the Green Trail, Aimee Ralph completed a project that integrated QR codes with the 2012 Tyler Plant Sale (see the video at the end of this post) – and these are my campus students from just the past two years!  But I wanted to meet with a student interning this summer and hear more about what a typical student works on and learns during his/her time with Tyler.

Meet Emily Pennock, Summer 2013 Horticulture Intern at Tyler Arboretum.

Meet Emily Pennock, Summer 2013 Horticulture Intern at Tyler Arboretum.

It turns out that two of the summer interns are students at Penn State University (what a coincidence!), and Emily Pennock was kind enough to take the time to meet with me and share details of her summer experience.  Emily is starting her sophomore year at the Penn State – University Park campus this fall, majoring in Plant Sciences with the Horticulture option.  She is from Bryn Mawr and has known about Tyler Arboretum all of her life.  Emily started her summer with many ideas and places where she wanted spend her time.  She soon found out that with only one year of college under her belt, many places were not willing to give her a position with next-to-no experience.  She knew that an unpaid internship would give her the experience that she needed to move forward in her discipline.  When she saw on the Tyler website the posting of available internship positions, she applied and interviewed with Mike Karkowski.  Immediately, she felt Mike was very welcoming and she knew she made the right decision of where to spend her summer!

Emily shared with me that although the interns are brought into one department, all of the interns learn about everything at the Arboretum.  Even though Emily thought she would be getting an introduction just to plants and the Horticulture Department, she received a full introduction to public gardens, Tyler’s Education Department, and even had lunch with the other interns and Tyler’s Executive Director Rick Colbert.  She said she was able to get her hands and feet into everything, and her range of experiences included learning how to use the Arboretum’s machinery and how take apart and clean a chainsaw.

I asked Emily what was one of the best parts of her internship.  Without hesitation, she said, “working with the people at Tyler.”  Emily said she felt accepted immediately by everyone and never felt that she was treated any differently being a student and an intern.  She said her conversations with the Tyler staff while weeding and trimming made mundane and repetitive tasks educational and fun.  Emily also appreciated being able to work with other volunteers that joined the Horticulture Department on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

I had to put on my “faculty member hat” and ask her what she felt would me most valuable to her studies back at Penn State.  She said after spending so much time gardening and weeding with the Horticulture crew and volunteers, she has learned so many plant names and is much more familiar and confident with the identification characteristics of plants.  Of course, getting a full internship experience beyond just plant identification is something she feels very fortunate to have received this summer.  She definitely recommends that all students look at the internship possibilities at Tyler, during the summer and academic year (and I agree!).

In wrapping up our conversation, Emily said she really feels that Tyler “is a place for everybody,” that the gardens and trails and history and tree houses all provide something for everyone to enjoy.  Emily also greatly appreciates how Tyler is very focused on interacting with its visitors.  She said she is definitely coming back with her family, and I hope to see her again, too (maybe on the trails, one of Tyler’s places she personally enjoyed).  Or, maybe I’ll have to look for her at her favorite spot at the Arboretum she found while weeding near the lilacs – a tree with a low, long branch that provides plenty of shade and a great spot to read a good book.

Below: Video of the QR Code project carried out by undergraduate researcher Aimee Ralph at the 2012 Tyler Arboretum Plant Sale.

Author: Dr. G

Dr. Laura Guertin, Professor of Earth Science, Penn State Brandywine. Learn more at

3 thoughts on “What an internship is like at Tyler Arboretum

  1. Hi Dr. Guertin! its Brigid Sullivan! I don’t know if you remember me but I took your science class last semester, the one about environmental factors and food, well I thought I’d let you know that im currently working at the tyler arboretum summer camp, i am an camp counselor assistant,to rachel Ndeto I’ve been working there since the second week of July and i’m loving it! I asked them if they know you and they all had fantastics things to say about you! i’m having a wonderful experience, I used to come to tyler as a child with my father and explore! just thought you might like to know! this coming week is the last week of camp, who knows maybe we will run into each other! enjoy the rest of your summer!

    • Hi Brigid, Of course I remember you from ERM 210 – it’s great to hear from you! And I appreciate you commenting on the post. It is important to note that not only does Tyler have summer internship positions, but Tyler also hires students to help with their summer camp programs. I’m so glad to hear you are having a wonderful time with Rachel and Tyler’s Education group, and I’m glad this opportunity has allowed you to reconnect with Tyler. Good luck with the last week of camp (and with the start of the semester), and I’m sure we’ll run in to each other!

  2. Pingback: Summer 2015 Horticulture intern Luqmaan Richard | Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s