As my experience at Turtle Island Restoration Network came to a close, I was able to reflect on the skilled I used as well as gained in and outside of the internship.
Research, Scientific Understanding, and Science Communication Skills
For my first month I was given a project to research the swimway between Cocos Island and Galapagos Island in order to address the Ecuadorian government. I compiled research on the science and policy behind the issue in order to protect the migratory turtles and sharks. Since Turtle Island Restoration Network and collaborating NGOs used a top-down approach and will not be presenting to scientists, the visual representation needed to convey the science in a way that is understood by a non-scientist audience. I was able to use research, scientific reading, statistics, and science communication skills to help with the written aspect, and use my art skills to create a conceptual map using Photoshop and a leaflet design in order to present the issue in an effective way.
The dominant project over the internship was my policy brief. Turtle Island Restoration Network took an interest in fibropapillomatosis that causes tumors in turtles. I spent the last two months of my internship researching the science behind the disease and the laws in place that do not protect against non-point source pollution. I wrote an eight-page policy brief on the topic and handed over 100 documents of source material for the next intern to continue the work.
Data Verification and Correction
One of the more relaxing aspects of my internship was the salmon report. I was assigned to read previous internal reports and determine if there was any methodology changes over the years. After writing my report, I was assigned data verification and correction of smolt data from 2006 to 2014. I had to locate the hand written notebooks, verify the data was properly written in the Excel spreadsheet, and correct any mistakes made. The most common mistake was one entry for multiple data points.
Smaller projects taught me about social media. I posted daily Facebook and Twitter posts on our multiple pages including Got Mercury, SPAWN, Turtle Island Restoration Network, and Cocos Island pages. Additionally, I wrote several blogs, updated website news, and so on. I saw the importance of social media as a method of outreach through promotion of contests, trips, and volunteer days.
The knowledge I gained outside of the internship was very valuable and having the internship was key in giving me access to these experiences.
Park Ranger Rescue Boat
While visiting a known area near the Point Reyes Lighthouse, I ran into a park ranger. After talking to him for about an hour about environmental issues, he learned I worked on Golden Gate National Park land. Because of this, I was offered an invitation to go on a park ranger rescue boat the following day at Tomales Bay.
During the several hours on the boat, I learned about safety of the public and the environmental issues involved – such as environmental impacts of gas stations for boats and anthropogenic impact of tourists – as well as the history of squatters such as Clayton Lewis and the impact his home and kiln made on the environment.
Conversations with the Public
Like any small town, everyone knows everyone. That can help or hurt an environmental cause. I traveled a great deal on my own and met people along the way. I was always asked why I was in California and whom I worked for. I would always get three different responses to the NGO:
1) I love Turtle Island Restoration Network
2) All Turtle Island Restoration Network does is sue the town. We don’t like them.
3) I’ve never heard of them before! That’s nice!
Those who loved Turtle Island Restoration Network or never heard of them never went beyond asking where I worked. However, those who hated Turtle Island Restoration Network would get into deep discussions as to why they disapproved of Turtle Island Restoration Network. A lot of the issues were due to miscommunication or personality conflicts. Instead of this being in a formal setting, the conversation was informative for future environmental groups I work for. By gaining this experience, I will be able to reach out to those who may disagree with an environmental movement I work for in order to reach a compromise through understanding.
My internship experience at Turtle Island Restoration Network opened my eyes to the environmental realm through internal and external work. Between the internship, the traveling, and the friends I made in the process, it was an opportunity I will never forget.