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Ironton seniors helps Wayne National gather data

For some students, summer means either getting a job or finding some other way to fill up the long days.

But one Ironton High School student found herself hiking through the woods, filling out paperwork and avoiding ticks and snakes.

It was helping the staff of Wayne National Forest’s Ironton Ranger District gather data from the effects of the 2003 ice storm and Mary Bowen loved it.

The Ironton High School senior volunteered for a position at the forest and finds the work fascinating and most likely helpful for the federal agency she would like to work for in the future — the Environmental Protection Agency.

Bowen has put in more than 300 hours since June 5. Her job was to go to sites in the woods where there are a lot of dead trees from the severe ice storm to see how plants are regrowing and how many dead branches and trees there are so they can judge what the potential fuel loads for forest fires.

“I thought this would be a good experience and I really liked it,” she said. She does admit that it was harder than she expected, but it’s a perfect fit for her college plans.

“I want to major in environmental sciences,” she said. “I’m interested in global warming and how to stop it. After college, I want to join the EPA and work in air quality.”

She isn’t sure how many miles she has walked in the woods this summer.

“I don’t even know,” Bowen said. “I couldn’t even guess.”

Chad Fitton, the assistant district ranger, said the detailed studies required a lot of manpower because they had to have people go out into the field and study the various sites.

“We’ve seen a lot of after-effects from the ice storm, a lot of trees have died and they lost a lot of branches,” Fitton said, adding there were at least 10 people who were working on the project. “This is a really good way to learn how to collect data.”

He said they didn’t know until April that they were going to do the post-ice storm data project.

“Mary has been extremely helpful on this,” he said. “Even after hiring seasonal workers, we are still short staffed. So she has been instrumental for us, not just as a note taker but someone actually out there, collecting data.”

As for Bowen, she thinks she enjoyed the summer more by volunteering.

“Normally, I just spend my summer indoors at home and read books,” she said. “I actually got out and did things I enjoyed.”