FAIRMONT - Standing in knee-high plants along the side of the highway in an unexpected summer deluge, it's just another day on the job for Craig English and Kiel Tschumperlin.
The duo are inspecting an area north of Fairmont for native flower seeds, trudging through the plants as semis whiz by, obliterating any chance for conversation. The flower seeds the pair intend to pick will eventually be planted in buffer strips or lakeshore restoration in the area.
English and Tschumperlin are interns for Martin Soil and Water Conservation District, an arrangement almost thwarted by the state government shutdown.
Kiel Tschumperlin points to seeds held by Craig English. Tschumperlin and English are interning with Martin Soil and Water Conservation District.
Officially, Friday was the last day for the interns, but they expect to hear from Conservation Corps, a division of AmeriCorps, the organization responsible for placing them, to learn if they can continue until their original August end date. They have been working in the area since the end of May.
English and Tschumperlin are about to begin their senior years in college, studying to become conservationists.
In exchange for their work this summer, the pair earn living stipends and educational scholarships based on the number of hours they work.
English hopes one day to work for the state Department of Natural Resources with fisheries; Tschumperlin has his eye on wildlife management.
Neither was sure what would come of their internships in southern Minnesota.
English said he had no expectations when beginning the project, but finds working in the field every day valuable.
Tschumperlin enjoys learning about policies, and looks forward to better understanding his classwork thanks to his experience in the field.
Both see their work on Martin County lakeshore restoration, rain gardens and buffer zones as bringing them closer to their goals.
"Everything is interrelated," said Tschumperlin. "It all kind of works together."
Cathy Thiesse, technician with the conservation district, said the Conservation Corps placed 30 interns around the state this summer in conservation offices, an effort to expose conservation-minded young people to the mission and work of the organization.
"Many [current conservationists] are getting toward retirement," she said.
Her experience with English and Tschumperlin has left her with no concerns about the future of the profession.
"If this is what our conservation people look like that are coming up, we should be in great shape," she said.