Olivia, Johanna, and Alex planting native plants in a disturbed area to stablize the slope.

In January of 2020, San Mateo County Parks welcomed its first Natural Resource Management Intern team. This team includes Alex Wilbanks, Johanna Harrison, and Olivia Kurz. As interns they have been and will be assisting the Natural Resource Management team with vegetation management and habitat restoration activities including mapping and removing invasive species, planting native species, and assisting with stewardship corps events. Other natural resource related activities include surveying for listed butterfly species on San Bruno Mountain and performing nesting bird surveys at several of our county parks.

Get to know our interns:

Alex Wilbanks

Hi, my name is Alex Wilbanks and I grew up in Sonoma, California and attended the University of Nevada Reno where I received my B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Biology. Prior to working for San Mateo County Parks, I spent four months as a temporary fish culturist at the Neets Bay Hatchery in Alaska. As a Natural Resource Management Intern with San Mateo County Parks my goal is to learn about the vegetative communities and their ecological roles within each park. I am also hoping to gain a better understanding of the available tools used to effectively manage and support native vegetation communities. Over the course of my first six weeks with San Mateo County Parks my favorite places to work have been Pillar Point Bluffs and the burn site at San Bruno Mountain. Pulling cape ivy at Pillar Point Bluff has offered immediate and enjoyable results and it has been incredible to watch the quick regrowth of vegetation at the burn site on San Bruno Mountain.

Johanna Harrison

Hi, my name is Johanna Harrison, I was born in Germany but raised in Sunnyvale, California. I attended Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo where I studied Environmental Management and Protection with an emphasis in Wildlife Biology. This past summer I worked at the San Francisco Zoo where I was able to teach students about wildlife and environmental conservation while getting some hands-on experience with zoo species. Through the course of this internship I hope to gain valuable skills and techniques required for ecological restoration projects and a better understanding of the native flora and fauna within the county. These past few weeks have truly opened my eyes to the diversity of different parks that the County of San Mateo has to offer. One of the most memorable experiences so far has been working with Friends of Edgewood to help install a native seed bed garden at Edgewood County Park and Natural Preserve! I have also really enjoyed helping out with the volunteer planting events on the weekends and spotting interesting wildlife species in the parks.

Olivia Kurz

Hi, I'm Olivia! I grew up on Cape Cod, MA, where I was immersed in nature and science from an early age. Before moving to the Bay, I was an early childhood science and gardening educator in New York City for seven plus years, and have an MA in Museum and Childhood Education from Bank Street College of Education. I moved to the Bay Area two and a half years ago, and have been involved in urban farming and sustainable landscaping projects until joining San Mateo County Parks. I am thrilled to dive into the world of habitat restoration, weed management, and biological monitoring. As an avid birder, and plant and insect lover, I hope to contribute to restoring and improving critical habitat in our parks, and to learn widely applicable ecological restoration skills. So far, I have especially enjoyed pulling French Broom at Junipero Serra County Park, and assisting with volunteer planting events at San Bruno Mountain Old Guadalupe Trail. It's incredible to experience and learn about the diversity of flora and fauna that call our parks home--some highlights have been dusky-footed woodrats, sea-stars, and slender salamanders.