As my internship with the NSRWA comes to an end, I have the opportunity to reflect on the many memorable experiences I have had this summer.
When I first joined the NSRWA and began working with Dr. Sara Grady, I was amazed by the number and breadth of projects that are undertaken throughout the summer. These undertakings included raising (and releasing) Galerucella beetles to control the invasive species purple loosestrife, completing background assessment work on a mussel restoration project, and conducting water quality monitoring programs, along with facilitating a variety of citizen science programs aimed at gaining more data on our local ecosystems. I am proud to have contributed to and participated in some of these projects in our watershed.
One of my favorite parts of the internship was exploring the intertidal, riverine and coastal zones through our programs involving assessment of species in these areas, such as horseshoe crab and invasive species monitoring. I enjoyed learning more about the community of organisms living on our coast by observing them in their natural habitat. The most memorable occasion was snorkeling in the South River searching for blue mussels. Learning to identify the various species in the area and understanding more about the species interactions that make up coastal and estuarine ecosystems was a unique and rewarding experience.
I was most surprised to learn about the non-ecology work in the association. As an intern, I had the opportunity to be involved with some of the event planning and community engagement work done in the NSRWA. This opened my eyes into the background work that is involved in running a non-profit. Additionally, I was interested to learn about the relationships that the NSRWA has with towns within the watershed and the collaboration on programs aimed at improving the health of the community and protecting the environment, such as reducing stormwater pollution and encouraging cleanup of pet waste. It is truly rewarding to work for an organization that influences the community in such a positive way.
As I leave this experience and head into my final year of school, I have a new perspective on the work that is important for both ecosystem management and community engagement. I have gained confidence in working in the field, developed my problem solving skills, and improved my abilities in data entry and analysis. Most importantly, I better understand that making a meaningful difference in the community and the environment goes beyond science, and that getting people connected to the places you want to protect is equally important. I am grateful to the NSRWA staff and volunteers for a fun and educational summer!