The ASLC has offered an internship program, training the next generation of ocean educators, scientists and conservationists, for almost 20 years. Summer is typically our busiest time, with over 25 enthusiastic new recruits arriving from all over the US; however, this year we unfortunately had to press pause as part of our continued efforts to promote safety and health during the pandemic.
So instead of our usual introduction to the current summer interns, we decided to check in with a group of four ASLC interns from the summer of 2009 and see what they have been up to since their time in Seward!
ASLC Internship: Environmental Education Intern– Summer 2009
Current Job: North Carolina Wildlife Resources Surveys and Research Biologist
During the three months I spent in Seward, I never once saw a bear. As an ASLC Environmental Education Intern, I spent two days a week on a boat in Kenai Fjords National Park teaching and showing others wildlife in one of the best places to view it. But, no bears.
After graduating with a Natural Resources degree from LSU, I took a myriad of jobs from working with an estuarine fisheries program in the Atchafalaya Basin to identifying waterfowl for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. And then…I made up for all the bears I missed in Alaska. I accepted a graduate research position at UGA studying the reproductive biology and denning ecology of Black Bears in central Georgia. I was able to fit bears with GPS collars and track them to see where they were denning and estimate cub survival. After graduating with a M.S. in Forest Resources, I headed to south Florida to work as a bear biologist assisting with human-bear conflicts. Now, I live in North Carolina and work for the North Carolina Wildlife Commission. Initially I was a Black Bear and Furbearer Biologist, but now my work focuses on a wider variety of animals. I conduct camera surveys in the winter for Eastern Spotted Skunk, band Wood Ducks in the summer, and still get my hands on bears — collaring and releasing rehabilitated yearlings each year.
My internship at the ASLC was the beginning of an exciting career. While my internship focused on education, I was able to tag along with research crews doing all kinds of work and gain invaluable experience. I also made life-long friends and colleagues. A couple of years ago, I attended the International Bear Association Conference in Anchorage. I was able to meet up with friends who still work there, show my husband the ASLC, and took a boat tour through Kenai Fjords to view wildlife with many other bear biologists from the conference. I love it when life takes you full circle. And yes, we did see bears.
ASLC Internship: Chiswell Monitoring Intern—Summer 2009
Current Job: Senior Marine Mammal Trainer, Alaska SeaLife Center
It’s been over a decade since I drove up from the lower 48 by myself in a small VW beetle, on a quest for adventure and to pursue my dream, working with and conserving marine mammals. As I drove up, P!nk just released her new album and it was on repeat the entire drive. Every time I hear certain songs on that album, it brings me back to that trip up here to Alaska, and looking back now, how it was the beginning of the life I was always hoping for.
The internship I was lucky to land was conducting and collecting research for a Steller sea lion project. The project is focused on Chiswell island that uses a remote monitoring system to conduct research in a non-invasive way, observance without disturbance! It was exciting to learn sea lions, with some having over 12 years of data at the time, and watch them give birth and raise their pup over the summer, while collecting valuable information that allows us to understand the current status of this species. My favorite part of this year was getting to go to the rookery and collect information on the new pups that I got to watch be born on the cameras! We were able to get their sex, weights, and body measurements. This is one of my favorite memories to this day! I fell in love with the project and continued on with this team for a few years. As my time at ASLC expanded, I started to volunteer in the marine mammal department and then took a AmeriCorps position working in the mammal department training Steller sea lions and harbor seals for care and also to participate in research projects. This started the pathway of my career today, where I am still in the marine mammal department, now as a senior trainer. I am living my dream and I was so lucky to begin this path at a young age.
My advice to anyone wanting to work in the marine mammal field: know that the path is not easy, but it is doable! Those that make it or the ones that didn’t give up. Keep trying and understand that not getting a job doesn’t reflect on you personally and don’t let it get you down! Don’t compare yourself to others, and focus on what you can do to continue to progress in the field!
ASLC Internship: Environmental Education Intern– Summer 2009
Current Job: Captain, Oak Harbor Marina
My internship at the Alaska Sealife Center consisted of being an Interpretive Naturalist as well as assisting with the Junior Ranger Program aboard the Major Marine vessels. I was between my sophomore and junior year of college and starting my twenties (literally in the Ted Stevens International Airport). Prior to this internship, I had spent half of my school year learning to adapt after Hurricane Ike hit, devastating the community where I was going to school. I needed a change of pace and why not Alaska, where people go to escape their real life?
After 11 years and almost dropping out of college to pursue a career in the whale watch industry, I have worked aboard numerous and various boats all over Alaska, and the the Salish Sea (Washington State, Puget Sound area). I am currently working at the Oak Harbor Marina. I fell in love with working on boats and being around boats during my internship, so much so that I eventually received my captain’s license and was the captain of the Island Whaler. To be honest, there are too many memories for me to pick just one, but when I reflect back on this time the friendships that were created and the ability to just be me would be at the top. My advice to anyone coming in as an intern is to have an open mind to every experience and soak up every opportunity, good, bad, or indifferent, as it has helped me to become who I am today.
ASLC Internship: Harbor Seal Intern–Summer 2009
Current Job: Research Scientist & 60° North Science Writer/Editor
This post has a special meaning for me, as these three strong, amazing women were my roommates when I too was an intern, for the ASLC Harbor Seal Monitoring Program. I spent my days that summer manning the remote cameras and conducting surveys from boats, and occasionally volunteering with stinky jobs (e.g. collecting halibut stomachs or cleaning sea lion scat). While these skills themselves were applied to many of my adventures that followed (graduate school for my Masters and PhD), the biggest lessons I learned were how marine conservation is not only about protection and isolation; but finding creative, collaborative and sustainable solutions to address challenging environmental issues.
I am grateful for my time as an intern at the ASLC, not just for these lessons but for the people I met. We all have grown and evolved in our careers, but stay connected through our shared summer, amazing memories, and collective passion for conservation.