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Young Harris College biology major selected for environmental internship 

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. — Work in the classroom or lab is an important part of any college education, but hands-on training in a student’s field of study provides unmatched experience. Jill Dixon, a recent graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Biology at Young Harris College, was one of many students with just this type of opportunity.

Dixon recently completed work with the U.S. Forest Service – Blue Ridge Ranger District in Blairsville thanks to the Nichols Family Environmental Internship.

“The Nichols Family Environmental Internship was an amazing opportunity that made me aware of all the important things the Forest Service does,” said Dixon.

During the summer of 2023, Dixon worked to catalogue recreational special-use permits issued by the district to help evaluate the impacts of recreation on national forests. She also spent time outdoors learning about the activities of Forest Service rangers.

“I analyzed and compiled data from recreational permits for the Blue Ridge Ranger District in the Chattahoochee National Forest,” Dixon said. “The goal was to document which parts of the forest are most heavily permitted and used, and eventually, we hope to examine the impacts on forest health of that use.”

Dixon is now starting graduate school at Western Carolina University, with hopes of returning to work again with the Forest Service.

“Right now, at Western Carolina University, I am working towards my master’s degree in biology and intend to complete a thesis examining salamander diversity and hybridization in north Georgia,” Dixon said. “I intend to apply for a Pathways Internship with the Forest Service next year, and after graduating, I hope to continue working in wildlife biology, possibly with the Forest Service or another government agency.”

Internships like this are made possible by the generous donations or contributions from alumni and the local community, said Dr. Kevin Geyer, with Young Harris College’s Biology department.

“This was the inaugural internship from the Nichols Family and it’s a great example of how these opportunities can help our Young Harris College students experience real-life application of what they learn in the classroom,” Geyer said. “The value is immeasurable in terms of how it prepares the student for life after graduation.”

Dixon agreed, citing the ability to see actual professionals in her field of interest doing the work she had learned about at Young Harris College: “Besides working on the permit data, I was able to accompany different Forest Service personnel in the field and learn about what each department does to maintain the forests. I really enjoyed seeing how many people all work together to accomplish this. Working with the USFS also helped me make great connections with the people working at the office, which will help me as a start out on my career path.”

About Young Harris College

Young Harris College is a private baccalaureate and master’s degree-granting institution located in the beautiful mountains of North Georgia. Founded in 1886 and historically affiliated with The United Methodist Church, Young Harris College educates, inspires, and empowers students through an education that purposefully integrates the liberal arts and professional studies. The College has four academic divisions: Fine Arts; Humanities; Mathematics, Science, and Technology; and Professional Studies. Approximately 1,400 students are enrolled in its residential and Early College programs. The College is an active member of the NCAA Division II and remains a fierce competitor in the Conference Carolinas. For more information, visit