A Day in the Life:  Krystal Lemhouse on Chiloe Island, Chile

Krystal Lemhouse

Krystal has spent the last several months working in an internship on Chiloe Island, Chile. 


I received the email in December that I got the Chilean Internship and would be able to spend my next term (January to March) working on a forest restoration project on Chiloe Island, Chile.  I quickly contacted my would-be boss, Dr. Jan Bannister, to figure out all the details.  I made house arrangements, booked my flights, and said my goodbyes a few weeks later.

I arrived to a summery Castro in early January 2019 and from then on, the rest is history.  I have had an incredible experience and have even extended my internship to spring term to stay longer.  Every single day I learn something new, whether it is forest restoration and natural resources management, field work and technical knowledge, Spanish language and Chilean culture, or about myself and how I am developing as an individual in a place very different from what I have known my whole life. 

My customs, form of living and speaking and how I see the world has changed.  This internship has been about 50% office work and data analysis on a computer, and 50% field work, presentations and traveling.  The internship is very flexible, and the culture is very giving so I have had plenty of time to do anything I need.  My boss, Jan, is extremely competent in forest research as well as personally accommodating and understanding.  I am surrounded by forestry and ecosystem professionals who all care about my learning and personal well-being.  I could not ask for a more welcoming, warm and hand-on driven learning environment.  I feel very at home and the only thing left for me to do is find a way to come back.

To give an accurate description with photos of my daily life, I have put together an “average day” time line to show future exchange students what they will be doing in their time here.

A Typical Day

The hard part is that there is no typical day.  There could be terrano (field) days (or weeks) where you are up at 6am and arrive back at 8pm hiking and recording data all day or your typical office days from 9am-5pm where you only leave your desk for lunch and coffee.  I have put together a cumulation of what one could expect by participating in this experience. 
Working at the office, at your computer doing data analysis, research, and other aspects of whatever your project is.  The office culture is nice and there is always coffee.
The other 50% of the work is field work (terrano) and there are various aspects of this.  When you go en terrano, you are assisting one of the employees on their project.  You are able to learn alongside them, and help them with their tasks.

Here is German, one of the forest restoration researchers, holding the raft we just used to cross the river. With German, I assessed water tables on restoration sites.

Getting to Job Sites

Sometimes the project sites are in remote and difficult to access areas.  Sometimes this requires travel by raft or boat. There are also many long hikes and walks we have to take to get to where we need to go.  This allows interns to see many incredible views, hike in these diverse forests, and even see endemic species along the way.

The Projects

One of the projects involves monitoring seed dispersal and release rates, and another project is monitoring reproductive cycles of cypress. This involves monitoring and taking photos every month and recording changes.

Another one of the projects was a project by Thomas, one of the Chilean students, about mapping different Tepu points throughout the island (tepu is a South American tree).  This project involved traveling all over the island, working with locals for many points were on private property, and checking the accuracy of the GIS map.

Another one of the projects is to monitor current restoration sites.  This involves planting our target tree species, then using various treatments to see which is the most helpful for restoring this tree type.  Some of the treatments are clearing understory around the area and using fences to prevent browsing. 

To monitor browsing, we set up cameras in various plots to record activity around the saplings.  
One of the projects on the non-timber forest products side is researching culturally important ephiphytes of Chiloe.  We had to measure and gather information about the forests and tree species the epiphytes preferred so that we can replant and restore them.  The locals use non-timber forest products for all sorts of artisanal crafts. 

Aside from the field projects, another important aspect of this internship is scientific communication.  There were a few times when there were presentations and exhibitions to speak about our projects and present the research. 

Here is one of the presentation days.  This presentation was about the importance of Tepu trees, and included a hike showing the species growing in real time.

Benefits of the Internship

There are other interns here from all over the world!  In just my time here, I was able to work with two Chilean students, a German student and another student from the United States.
You are able to explore the entire island of Chiloe, but you are also in the region of Patagonia and can take weekend trips to Argentina to further explore the region.

The Encuentro de Kayak is an international event created by Viento Sur (a local kayak club Jan is a part of) that is four days of kayaking around Chiloe.  If you are around in March, you absolutely must participate.


Below is the preparation of Curanto which is native to the island of Chiloe.  Curanto is a mixture of milcow (a tortilla made from potato that resembles a giant noodle), seafood, meat, potatoes and vegetables and is traditionally prepared in a hole, about a meter and a half (approx. one and a half yards) deep, which is dug in the ground. The bottom is covered with stones, heated in a bonfire until red.
The nalca leaf is important for making curanto and can be found all over the island.

Tips and Reccommendations

There are a couple of things that need to be mentioned before this internship.  Jan in the only full-time employee in the office who speaks English, and even then, Spanish is his first language.  It is hard to find anyone who speaks English on the island, and even less anyone who speaks English well.  If you have no Spanish or are even basic, I would highly recommend studying and practicing your Spanish a lot before you go.  Chilean Spanish is not like the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, and you will have a lot of difficulties if you cannot communicate.  It is also disrespectful.  You are working with professionals and it is not their job to teach you the language. They are trying to do their work, and you should be more of an assent than a hindrance, but if you cannot speak, you might be the latter.

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