After working for two and a half months for the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, I have learned quite a bit: I have gathered a wide variety of experience that I will actually use in future job positions. Throughout the summer, I was able to increase my field experience, which will be very helpful to me in the future. From this field experience, I have learned that “Real Life Science” doesn’t always go as planned. I am used to going to pre-determined locations and following listed steps, so I was not ready for the moments when nature took the reins. I learned that equipment will get lost, damaged or broken. For example, when I was working on water quality monitoring of Third Herring Brook, the sampling container that we were using to collect samples was lost in Margret’s Brook. This loss ultimately affected our data and our ability to compare the different sites and how they were individually affected by storm water runoff. This experience made me realize that things go wrong and you just have to keep going and make sure you note what happened and how that could affect your results.
Another lesson that I learned was you won’t always be working safely in a lab. There may be times when you are out on the clam flats or in the marsh and sink knee deep in mud and have that sinking feeling (pun intended) that you aren’t going to get out. But that is why—I have learned—you never go out in the field alone and why you should always have a first aid kit and change of clothes in case you sink deep in mud or run into cut grass.
I also learned that sometimes your set plan doesn’t work and you don’t always know everything. Even with your best efforts to plan your field work, you can get to the site and have the plan completely crumble. So with field work you just have to be flexible and make the most of what you can do, especially if you don’t know what you’re working with. For example, Sara showed me that you can identify something as Marsh Dill while in the field and then reach out to other more knowledgeable people for help. When things don’t go your way, whether that is Arcmap not working properly or not finding what you are looking for with your mussels project, you sometimes need to step back and think of a new approach to try and see results.
Another skill that I gained while working with the NSRWA is dealing with the public. I had never considered a science job would involve so much interaction with the public. While working on the South River Dam Removal project, I got firsthand experience how valuable it is to teach people about the environment. From those interactions, I saw the effort involved with presenting information and the public may still not accept the science, but it is essential that we to keep calm and try to find a way to accurately portray the information to them.
Also from working with a nonprofit I got the chance to get involved with working with volunteers and donors. There were a lot of hours sending “Thank You” letters to make sure people understood that their efforts were appreciated. And that was one of the most powerful experiences. Without the volunteers and the donors, I wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of the field work I got to; like tagging horseshoe crabs in Duxbury, or monitoring invasive species (Pictures to the sides).
But by far the best experience that I gained from this internship is working with the other interns – Natalie and Olivia – Sara, Sam, Paula, Debbie and Alyssa. I never thought I would laugh so much at an internship. There was never a dull moment in the office or in the field, and it made the good times better and the not so good times more bearable. So thank you for allowing me to join the group, it was a summer well spent!