Students become first interns through Yellowstone program

by Life Editor Tyler Hargett

While many UNA students tend to intern in Alabama, senior Cody Ringelstein and graduate student Sara Bayles decided to go to the worlds’s first national park, Yellowstone.

As part of the Yellowstone Forever program, the two students were able to spend their past summer interning at Lamar Buffalo Ranch, which counted as credit toward their required internships.

Bayles said they agreed to work for 400 hours but reached this goal within six weeks, ending with at least 2,000 hours over the course of four months.

The two students joined four other volunteers at the ranch. However, they are the first college interns to work through the program.

Bayles said she and Ringelstein desired to intern in Yellowstone after going in 2015 as part of the UNA West program, which allows students to visit different national parks.

Ringelstein said Yellowstone stood out from the other national parks because of its wild and wide-open environment.

“(There are) not many other places you can go where you can see bears, wolves and all these apex predators in one area in the wild,” he said.

Bayles said she enjoys the history behind the creation of the park.

“People came together and made this place, preserved it and made it a national park before there was even a park service,” she said.

Thomas Coates, former chair of the department of health, physical education and recreation, was involved in setting up the internship to connect UNA with Yellowstone.

Coates, who previously led UNA West, said he knew Ringelstein and Bayles would be the right students to participate in the internship.

“I got to observe Cody and Sara in the field (during UNA West), working in a group setting (and) accepting responsibility as part of the team,” he said. “Both had some of the qualities that I was looking for.”

Yellowstone Forever utilizes both employed staff members and volunteers from across the U.S.

Bayles and Ringelstein’s served as campus and program volunteers at the ranch, which consisted of switching shifts between program supervisors and camp duties.

Different groups would come to the ranch for educational programs, which Bayles and Ringelstein had to supervise on trips through the valley.

“We were pretty much like lifeguards on land,” he said. “Some classes are going to hike one mile, some are going to hike 12 to 15 miles. (With) some classes, you’re going to go through water (and) some you’re not even going to leave the bus.”

Camp duty consisted of staying behind on the ranch to clean the cabins and bunkhouse. After this, they would wait for the groups to return.

Ringelstein said they could see two miles straight across the ranch.

“We would have bison come through the ranch all the time,” he said.

Ringelstein said because of the Yellowstone internship, he wants to work in the Western U.S. as either a wildlife firefighter or a law enforcement park ranger.

“With Cody and Sara going out and the fantastic job that they did, they have set the bar very, very high for not only students coming (to Yellowstone) from UNA, but students coming from anywhere,” Coates said. “They’re going to be judged on what Cody and Sara did this past summer.”