I Am ACE | Isabel Ahlstrom

Written By ACE'r

On December 13, 2021

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My name is Isabel Ahlstrom, and I am an AmeriCorps member who joined the American Conservation Experience Mountain-West conservation corps for a 6-month term in 2018 and am now serving a year-long term with the ACE EPIC internship program. I am working as a Hydrological Technician for the National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring Division; Appalachian Highlands Network and spend my days collecting data for the long-term stream and river monitoring programs at the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Obed Wild and Scenic River and Blue Ridge Parkway.

Isabel Ahlstrom Sitting on Rock with Drink in Hand

For the past 6 months I have been working for the National Parks Service Appalachian Highlands (APHN) Inventory and Monitoring Network as a hydrological technician. I spend my days taking water samples, monitoring environmental changes and exploring streams and creeks at the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Obed Wild and Scenic River and Blue Ridge Parkway. While working for the long-term monitoring division of the National Park Service, I have learned more about what it takes to contribute to a rigorous scientific program through federal service. As a part of a small team of scientists, I monitor 5 continuous water quality monitoring sites monthly and 42 quarterly-sampled discrete water quality sites on 3 National Park lands. I have been given the opportunity to work independently, leading a team of other hydrological techs in the field while we service sites, collect measurements and perform equipment calibrations and tests in the laboratory. Using my background in hydrology and geochemistry, I have been able to collaborate with other scientists to fine-tune our scientific methods and laboratory procedures as our program goes through changes, contributing to the revisionary period of the APHN’s scientific protocols. I have also been given the opportunity to cross train with other hydrologists, botanists, and wildlife biologists, learning skills outside of my field of knowledge.

Isabel Ahlstrom Taking Water Sample

While I have learned a ton since joining the Appalachian Highlands Network, I have also enjoyed the experience immensely. After graduating college in January of 2021, this ACE EPIC internship has been the ideal place for me to learn, grow and start my career. I have found wonderful colleagues and friends and spend my off-time hiking, rock climbing and exploring the Appalachian Mountains. ACE Conservation Corps and EPIC internship programs have genuinely altered the course of my life and I am grateful to have found multiple opportunities with this organization.

Isabel Ahlstrom Petting Friendly Dog

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  1. Liz Farmer

    Really cool post! I am an aspiring hydrologic field tech and was wondering what prior experience you got to get this type of position. Would appreciate to hear back from you, thanks!

    • Isabel Ahlstrom

      Hello, glad to hear you are thinking about working in hydrology. I don’t think there’s one right way to approach a career as a hydrology tech and I certainly don’t have it all worked out but I’m happy to share my background. I have a B.A. in geoscience focusing on water chemistry and eventually got a job in an aqueous geochemical lab on campus washing beakers and other scientific equipment. Half-way through my degree, I took 6 months off and worked for ACE’s Utah conservation corps fixing barbed wire fences and treating invasive species. After returning to school, I was able to do research through the next few semesters and summers and continued to realize that water science was the career path I was most excited to focus on. It didn’t always feel like it would work out but this ACE position has gotten my fledgling career off the ground and hopefully you will have similar luck in the job search!

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