“Solutions to the Water Pollution on the Mississippi River.” This is the title of the 46-page document that I wrote for my internship this summer. Now, that may seem like a daunting task, and some of you probably stopped reading at the mention of a writing a huge paper, but it was the best internship I have had yet.
Every year, the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, located near St. Louis, MO, offers around 20 research-based ecological or human dimensions internships. This year, I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the interns for this unique program. It begins with a one-week orientation in which students are introduced to different types of research. Then students spend 9 weeks in various areas of the Midwest working on research projects based on the Mississippi River. Their projects focus on anything from tracking birds at 3 in the morning, to dissolving fish in acid to measure their heavy metal concentrations, to creating educational videos about research to make it more understandable for the public. At the end of the 10 weeks everyone makes their way back to St. Louis to give an oral and poster presentation about their project. Every part of the internship offers a different learning experience and every part of the internship left me wanting to go straight into the workforce. If that was what work was like, then I was ready to jump right in.
As for my specific project, it was more product-oriented than most of the others. I was given the task of creating an Environmental Issues Forum (EIF) that could be delivered to students in a classroom setting. Normally, EIFs are meant for communities to come together to discuss an environmental issue and bring about action on the issue. However, we wanted students to be a part of the discussion and a part of the solution. After all, it’s their future that communities discuss. After I wrote the document and went through many drafts, I was able to present the forum multiple times to different groups of teachers and students. The last two weeks of my internship was a bit different, where I was able to conduct a waterschool camp for 9-13 year old students. I co-taught lessons and experiments about water. Every step of my internship challenged my writing and interpersonal skills, and every step was worth the work I put into it.