Reflections on My Summer with NSRWA

By Drew Martin

This summer I had the pleasure of interning for the North and South River Watershed Association. Working under a close group of people all committed to the health and wellness of our rivers showed me how much some people care about our environment. While I had a general schedule and tasks to complete, I felt like every day was something new and exciting. Each week was a great mix of office and field work, and it really let me explore my interests and determine what aspects of environmental work appealed to me. This internship was a great way to spend my summer and I feel like I helped contribute to some truly good and important work.

My main job was overseeing the citizen science water quality testing program, RiverWatch. The purpose of the RiverWatch is to gather data about the health of our rivers and continually monitor their progress. Each week, a group of wonderful volunteers tested and gathered samples from locations around our watershed. My role was scheduling and communicating with volunteers and the lab, and whenever I could, getting out in the field to help with sampling. I met and worked with some amazing volunteers and it was both fascinating and impactful to get opinions from some demographics I do not often have conversations about the environment with.  At the end of each week, I would receive the results with the goal of getting that week’s data out to the public by Friday. Our data did not determine if beaches were closed, or if shell fishing was allowed, but served as a monitoring tool for us and a way for the public to get an idea of the health of their local rivers. Helping organize RiverWatch, participating in the sampling, and entering/analyzing the data was a great variety of responsibilities which helped me see what I liked and didn’t like.

While RiverWatch was my main duty, it was not my only one. We orchestrate herring counts during each season, and I was tasked with entering and analyzing the data as best I could. It was very cool to see the raw herring data and try to translate it into something easy to comprehend. Especially as it is something that includes volunteers and our local community, many people have an interest in how our herring are doing.

Another aspect of this internship was benthic sampling, which is just sampling of what is in the mud of our rivers/estuaries. Three separate times, we went to work with the Cohasset Center for Student Coastal Research to see what we could find. We collected samples from the various spots and brought it back to the lab to determine what critters were there. Whatever we found, we would check out under a microscope and try to determine what exactly it was. Benthic sampling was a very fun way to be in the field and learn some things that I knew nothing about before.

Those were some of my bigger tasks, but again, it felt like every day was something new and exciting. The first week I got there, I participated in a river clean-up to clear debris and restore the flow of the river. The next week, I helped tag trout in the Third Herring Brook as well as create a solar-powered device to track them. As one of our goals was promoting interest and healthy usage of the river, I helped volunteer with our 29th Annual Great River Race. At the end of the summer, I helped with our Eel Grass Blitz surveying in Duxbury Bay. We spent all day on a boat gathering samples and taking pictures of eelgrass in an effort to monitor its health.

While there were a lot of fun tasks and jobs, my favorite was helping out with our Estuary Explorers program. This program is designed to get kids outside and interested in our estuaries, and it seems like it really worked. We would take a group of campers or students on a pontoon ride and out to the Spit all while educating them on the estuaries and rivers. We would walk around the tide pools and see what we could find, and I would talk to them about the estuaries and answer any questions they might have. Both the kids and the chaperones were fascinated with the ecosystems and it was amazing to be able to help contribute to their excitement. Since I had to answer questions, it made me learn more about the estuaries, and definitely contributed to an improvement in my education and leadership abilities.

I know there are things I am forgetting, but as you can tell, there is an incredible variety of tasks and responsibilities for this internship. I got to see some behind the scenes work like volunteer coordination and donor communication. I got to see the office work, like data entry and event planning. I got to go out into the field and help with sampling and data collection. It may seem overwhelming to see how much there is to do, but there are some amazing people helping out at each step of the way. I met some fascinating people from all walks of life and learned skills I never thought I would. This internship was an awesome way to spend my summer and I will always be grateful for the opportunity.