Kerri Strobeck, GBNERR Summer Intern
In May of 2019 I began my summer internship with the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve as the Research and Stewardship Intern. I was just about to graduate from UNH with a biology/environmental conservation degree, and I was looking for experience in the ecology field. I went into this job with the expectation that I would gain real field research experience, but what I actually got was far more momentous. From this internship I gained real, applicable field and laboratory research experience, I networked and gained professional connections, and I learned important interpersonal skills such as effective communication and team-building as a result of working with staff and volunteers.
In the beginning I was out working in the field a lot, helping the research team with various coastal marsh projects. The very first thing I learned was how to identify marsh plants; for instance, I learned that saltmeadow hay is an indicator species for high marsh habits whereas smooth cordgrass is indicative of low marsh. In addition to plant ID, I learned a new technology for mapping the elevation of the marsh, and I was able to help the research team monitor changes in salinity and groundwater levels of the marsh using a method called porewater sampling. In September, I got to participate in vegetation monitoring (A.K.A. biomonitoring), where I was able to put my plant ID lessons to the test.
I mentioned to the research coordinator, Chris, that I also had an interest in lab work and he was actually able to get me involved with some of those projects going on at the Reserve. I got to assist in environmental DNA projects and water quality projects – I helped filter water samples in order to extract eDNA, chlorophyll levels, and total nutrient levels in the water. I even got to come back the following week to assist in the analysis of the chlorophyll after filtering it using another new technique called fluorometry.
Outside of the research realm, I also really enjoyed getting out with the stewardship coordinator, Rachel, to work on community outreach projects – such as constructing the Great Bay Wildlife Garden near Chapman’s Landing. In addition to these great experiences, I also gained some valuable interpersonal skills – more often than not, I worked in close connection with volunteers/citizen scientists. With the volunteers and the staff at the Great Bay, I have made some great professional connections; and from them I have learned so much about the different career paths that are available for someone interested in ecology – ranging from coastal marsh ecology to environmental microbiology. I was able to meet people participating in different types of research, hear about their projects and how they got there, and hear what advice they have for me as an aspiring biologist/researcher. This internship has been nothing short of educational and engaging, and I have learned a ton that future employers will value.
We are now accepting applications for our 2020 Stewardship Intern. For more information, including application deadline, check out the job description!