Federal Employment

IMG-1539I recently finished up an internship working as a GS-3 Fisheries Technician for the Forest Service in John Day, Oregon. This was my first time working for the government and I definitely noticed a difference between this and my time working for a nonprofit. Unfortunately, most of these lessons were learned the hard way so I’ve outlined three of the biggest differences between working for the government vs private or nonprofit internships to hopefully help others.

 1. The PAPERWORK. My first day on the job I did five hours of paperwork, as well as multiple certifications and two weeks of further training just to work in a government position. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Was it kinda stressful and a pain in the butt? Also yes, so just keep that in mind. Have all your required documents accessible so this process can go smoothly.

2. The hiring process is SLOW. I applied for this position in October, was interviewed in January, offered the position in March, and was not actually hired until May. The background checks and multiple levels of hierarchy that have to approve your paperwork take time so be patient and plan accordingly.

3. There is a lot of hierarchy in working for the government obviously, but even when you’re working on a national forest. All I have to say about this one is to be ready to do a lot of teamwork with different departments and be able to accommodate others in making your daily decisions. It’s difficult and a little stressful but it’s for the best and facilitates your projects. An example would be my stream survey crew working with the archaeology crew on restoration projects. If there isn’t good communication between the departments, the project’s progress is slowed, people get confused, and supervisors get angry. Work together to reach your goal!

Federal work has amazing benefits (monetary, networking, experience, insurance, cross training, etc.) but is also difficult and slow so be ready to tackle those barriers and you’ll have great experiences. Regardless of the difficulties, I would recommend federal experience to anyone, especially working for the forest service, just be open to change and new (sometimes stressful) encounters.


Environmental Consulting Internship

As our lovely Midwest weather begins to turn from the beautiful early fall days to the wet and cold (and sometimes snowy!) fall days, my mind begins to wander back to the much warmer summer. In doing this, I’m reminded of the internship I was so lucky to have the privilege of working at. Over the summer, I worked at TecServ Environmental, Inc., a small environmental consulting company in my hometown. I got to do a combination of things this summer, including doing research to assist with our projects, go out to our project sites and see how different projects were undertaken, and just do basic office things like making copies or scanning reports.

This job was definitely unlike any other job I’ve worked before. Some days were pretty typical office days that involved just sitting around the office doing work on the computer or scanning and binding a report. I would sometimes research a site we were planning on visiting later that week, or sometimes I would look up environmental laws in other states to help with a project, or I would even find information on when certain certifications would expire to make sure my boss stayed up-to-date on those. Other days, we were out and about visiting project sites. Not many people can say they’ve visited condemned hotels, old factories, and random houses all in the same job.

Environmental consulting is pretty interesting and important to both human and environmental health, but personally, I can’t see myself staying in the field after college. Despite this, I am still grateful for the opportunity I was given and the experience I gained this summer!


Study Abroad 101

This past semester, I took a break from Purdue and flew 8,500 miles to study abroad in New Zealand. Studying abroad for an entire semester was a decision I battled with for awhile, but it was one of the best choices I’ve ever made! Now I am a firm believer that everyone should study abroad. Whether it’s for a week, a month, or an entire semester, the memories you’ll make and the information you’ll learn will be something to treasure for the rest of your life. Here are some tips that I learned along the way.

1. Expand your horizon when looking at places to visit.

I originally set my sights on Europe and only looked at universities there. At my first study abroad advising appointment, the advisor misheard me when I said I was considering Austria. She thought I said Australia and proceeded to tell me how great that country and New Zealand were. By the end, I was convinced and expanded my search. That mishap allowed me to find the perfect university and country for me.thumbnail_2019-10-18 12.02.54 1.jpg

2. Act like a freshman.

Go to all of the orientation events, random fairs, new clubs, and whatever else you can find going on on campus. This is a quick and easy way to make friends and get acquainted with where you are going to live. Plus you could end up with free food/stuff and who doesn’t love that?

3. Apply for any and every scholarship and then make a budget.

There are so many scholarships available for kids who are going abroad. However if you don’t apply, you will never have a shot at the free money. Once you have funds lined up, make a budget and then stick to it. This way you don’t accidentally burn through your money too quick and you can enjoy new experiences throughout your entire trip!

4. Try something new every day.

This was one of my favorite tips I got when I left! It can be easy to accidentally slip in to a monotonous routine of day to day life. Going out of your way to try something new every single day can be an easy way to avoid that. This can be something as big as travelling to see a new sight or something as small as trying a new food you found at the store.thumbnail_2019-09-04 08.15.44 1

5. Travel whenever and wherever you can.

You are studying abroad in an entirely new country, and who knows when you will be able to go back! Make sure you see as much of it as possible. I did this with my friends through small trips on the weekend and longer road trips during study breaks. You can also add on extra travel time before or after your semester!

These are just a few quick tips, but there are many more suggestions out there. Be sure to research and reach out to people who went to regions you are interested in. Firsthand knowledge is a great way to learn about the true experience a country offers!thumbnail_2019-08-30 08.20.00 1


Gearing Up for Graduation

As Commencement creeps closer and closer, the list of tasks piles high. However, eit’s also a time to reflect back on my NRES career. Only three and a half years ago I enrolled in a major that sounded like it would be a good fit for me. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. All I knew was that both “natural resources” and “environmental science” appealed to me. Thankfully, I stumbled into a program that would allow me to assemble my own concentration, become an ambassador, sit on student panels, study abroad, live close to my grandma, and set me up for a broad range of career opportunities.

My time here at the NRES program has allowed me to explore my love and passion for sustainability. I was able to test the waters of all the concentrations and find the perfect fit for myself. The coursework and advising prepared me for internships with The Nature Conservancy, the National Park Service, and the laboratories on campus. I learned along the way that I wanted to pursue my love for these subjects further, so I will be continuing onto graduate school in the fall.

Even though I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go when I started, my time here at Purdue and NRES led me to determine my path. Graduation may seem scary and far away. Perhaps the scariest part is that my cap and gown cost $75 to rent. But really, the journey here prepares you for this time and the steps that are to come. Enjoy your time at Purdue while it’s here and take advantage of every opportunity. In fact, make your own opportunities. NRES was a great choice for me and I can’t wait to continue learning and seeing the program grow.


DURI Summer Experience


FieldworkHola! This summer, I had the opportunity to work in a diverse, interdisciplinary team that conducted environmental research in Arequipa, Peru. This team is part of the Arequipa Nexus Institute, which is a partnership between Purdue and Universidad Nacional de San Agustin (UNSA). The goal of NEXUS is to collect extensive datasets in the agricultural and environmental sectors of Arequipa and use this data to guide sustainable development.

I, along with three other undergraduate students, traveled to Peru in May to learn about the geography, agricultural practices, and environmental challenges of the region. While in Peru, we worked alongside Peruvian students and professors from UNSA to develop research questions and collect data. 

My research project focused on soil health–specifically, heavy metal accumulation in Peruvian agricultural soils. Our team spent time at CIEPA Research Station, hand-augering holes through the dusty, rocky soil, to collect our samples. We packed-up over 100 samples that were sent back to Purdue for analysis. I spent the rest of the summer in the lab, utilizing Portable X-Ray Fluorescence technology to determine heavy metal content in the samples. At the end of the internship, I presented my data at a Purdue-UNSA poster symposium.

I loved everything about this internship; I was able to broaden my horizons (it was my first time working with soils) and make great connections and friendships at Purdue and UNSA. Additionally, the cultural immersion and intense research experience will serve me well in my future research pursuits.


Canoe to Work Day!

This summer I am working for a Civil/Environmental Engineering Firm in Downtown Indy! So far, this has been my favorite professional experience to date. I have been working in the engineering, regulatory services, and planning departments. My work either consists of research for new projects, wetland mitigation, or engineering plans! I am learning so much, plus I am hardly in the office which is a nice bonus 😊.

Christopher B. Burke, the company I work for, also has hosted “Canoe to Work Day” for 8 years now! I was so lucky to be able to partake and meet some of our customers as well as our mayor. 3 hours on the White River was a great way to start the morning and encourage people to take care of our river. Check out the photo below to see some of us in our boats!

I am anxious to start senior year but am having such a fun time here at my internship. It’s awesome to see engineering and environmental science come together.canoetowork


A Summer Abroad: The School for Field Studies

ayla wet suitG’day! This summer I had the opportunity of a lifetime: two months of studying conservation in the rainforests of Australia and performing research on the Great Barrier Reef. I was very apprehensive of my decision at first, as I had never met any of the 25 other students I would be spending the next 2 months with. In addition to this, I would be traveling to a remote research center in the rainforest where I would be sleeping in a cabin, have little to no Wifi access, and partaking in a rigorous Monday-Saturday schedule where the days began early and finished late. I was so nervous. However the two months I spent in Australia ended up being, without a doubt, the best two months of my life.

It is difficult to explain everything that I experienced, but I will do my best to make it short and sweet. The typical Monday – Saturday schedule consisted of a couple days full of lecture and the remaining days were typically field excursions. The field excursions could either last just a day or up to two weeks depending on where we were going and what we were doing. Some of the excursions that were just a day long included visiting regenerative agriculture farms, private aboriginal lands, hiking to waterfalls, volunteering for nearby communities, and so much more. Several of the longer field excursions included traveling to New Zealand, staying at a research station on the Great Barrier Reef, and exploring the Daintree Rainforest. Over the weeks, the passion I had for protecting the environment only grew, which is something that I did not think was possible. It was so amazing to be surrounded by other students who were fueled by similar passions and cared about the betterment of the world, not just themselves.

Overall, this experience has shaped me into a better person. I have gained further insight on the world of conservation, culture, ecology, and myself. I am able to walk away from this experience with lifelong friendships, a new perspective, and a fueled ambition ready to take on the world! If you ever have the opportunity to go abroad, take a leap of faith and go for it! P.S. Don’t forget to recycle 😉


Summer Internships

IMG-1032Summer internships are a great way to gain experience outside of school, make a little money, and see or live in new places. It can be a little scary and overwhelming to move somewhere far from home all on your own where you don’t know anyone for the summer, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. This past summer I packed up everything I owned into my little Subaru Forester and drove across the country to work in John Day, Oregon for the Forest Service as a GS-3 Fisheries Technician. Of course living in Oregon was super exciting for me, as was working for the Forest Service, but it was still scary to literally move across the country without the safety of my friends or family for 3 months. Long story short, I ended up having one the best summers and professional experiences ever, but it took some personal development to allow all that to happen. So, I broke it down into three lessons that I learned taking on this experience:

1. Going into a new experience alone can be scary but if you put yourself out there (sometimes out of your comfort zone) you can make friends, learn a lot, and have a lot of fun. Scary isn’t always bad, it’s just unfamiliar and that’s part of the adventure. I know I know I sound like a motivational poster but sometimes you just have to roll with whatever– and it ends up being more fun. 

2. Going into a job with little to no experience in that field isn’t always a bad thing, just be honest with your skills and open to learning new things. If you’re applying for a job that you already know how to do well, what’s the point? You’re there to learn and employers understand that so don’t shy away from a position because you feel inexperienced. 

3. Things are not gonna be perfect or go right all the time (this applies for life in general but especially for traveling across the country for an internship) but don’t dwell on that because it’ll take up too much of your brainspace and honestly is a waste of time wishing things went differently. Again, just be flexible and roll with it!

I learned so many new skills through my work with the Forest Service, but I really learned more about myself through this experience. Being independent, self-sufficient, working on communication and outreach, and open to new journeys are all important soft skills in pursuing a degree or professional experience. So give yourself a chance to develop those by putting yourself out there, even if it’s scary, because it could be a great experience (if not it can be a great story to tell).


Immersive Learning


This summer I had the opportunity to go on my second study abroad trip. I traveled to Belize with a small group of students, much different than my first study abroad where I went alone. We lived on a private island for a week, where we were 2 hours away from the mainland, had zero wifi, no hot water, and lived off power from a generator. Although it sounds like it would be terrible, it was by far the best part of the trip. We did conservation research diving while we were there. Three dives a day recording coral types, fish types, and conch and lobster size. We had three presentations a day that went over the importance of these conservation practices. I learned so much on this study abroad, more than I would have been able to if I was sitting in a classroom.


Indiana Governor’s Internship

This summer I am interning in the 2019 Indiana Governor’s Public Policy Internship. This program consists of numerous different government departments taking in students and integrating them into the workplace as if they were new employees. I am spending my part of the internship in the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). Specifically, I work in the Air Quality department writing air permits.

Air permitting consists of reviewing, writing, and amending permits that contain state and federal rules/regulations for businesses across the state. Every business that emits pollutants must have either an exemption, registration, MSOP, FESOP or TV permit to operate. Some of the pollutants I monitor in my division consist of VOCs, HAPs, PM/10/2.5, CO2, NOx, and SO2.

My workload for my internship roughly consists of amending 6-8 permits at a time. Each of my permits takes from 30-120 days to complete. This process is a lot of excel sheets, emission calculations, scientific writing, and rule reading.

The hardest part of my internship for me is trying to make sense of the laws. When I get a permit to complete, I have to figure out every single regulation, code, and rule that the business is subject to. I find it overwhelming at times trying to read the Indiana Administrative Code (IAC) since it is hundreds of pages long.

Either way, I love the experience of being in a government job and knowing what it is like to work with the state! I also think that knowing how to read and write official rules will be very beneficial to my future.