Summer Internship: Marine Ecology

Thinking about an internship? Learn about how ENVS senior, Meg Withers, found opportunity and experience last summer in Greece.

When is the right time to start looking for a summer internship? For some students, that time is now as some internship application deadlines are approaching in December, but for others the search starts in the spring semester. For current ENVS senior Meg Withers, the opportunity to intern in marine sciences came late in her junior year – she discovered an internship opportunity in March, applied and started in May!

As Meg discovered, if you have a specific interest, it is best to identify resources early to cultivate that interest. As a student passionate about marine mammal science and conservation, she subscribed to the marine science dedicated listserv MARMAM(Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion).  Her internship criteria were broad enough to leave her options open to a variety of opportunities and yet focused to make sure she would have a meaningful experience, according to Meg she was looking for “field work, marine research, a collaborative environment, and an ecologically engaging location.” When a notice came through MARMAM about an opportunity with Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation, she applied, interviewed and was selected as a summer 2018 intern. The goal of the organization is to monitor the regional status of marine mammal populations and their habitats in the eastern Aegean Sea. Meg describes her summer responsibilities below:

“The focus of my position was to assist with the numerous conservation efforts and projects carried out by the marine mammal team. These projects included stranding response, sea turtle research, monk seal research, and sea grass mapping, among others. My initial focus was stranding response, but a change of location adjusted my efforts. I was initially at the main base, but about two weeks in to the program I was transferred along with 12 others to a more remote base on the island of Lipsi. This move gave me an opportunity to focus on sea turtles as there was a greater need for sea turtle nest protection protocol and habitat mapping.”

 Meg’s summer experience was not perfect. At times there were challenges with program and resource management, but the ultimate takeaway was that it reinforced her commitment to marine mammal conservation and her intention to continue to study and work in this discipline. The program taught her about her capacity for resiliency and creating opportunity when program organization creates a challenging work environment. The field experience was a window into what it would mean to be working in marine mammal research, Meg’s experience had her surveying beaches for habitat suitability by kayak, free diving to study sea grass sediment preference and observing planted sea grass beds. She worked with conservation experts and other students on a variety of projects giving her an opportunity to gain experience in a multiple fields. More broadly, the opportunity to immerse herself in the culture of Greece was itself a teacher. As Meg describes it:

 “Exploring the sciences as well as a new country provided the perfect environment to progress in my field and explore myself as a person. So my overall takeaway, although it may sound cheesy, would be to keep exploring and doing things that make me uncomfortable to continue improving and learning.”

Meg’s experience is a terrific example of what we hope students gain out of this kind of experienced-based learning. She made sure she was tuned in to the resources she needed to find a good internship fit and while the experience was not perfect, she learned that she was still fully committed to the work of marine mammal research and conservation.

f you are considering a summer internship and would like to take advantage of fulfilling the independent study requirement as part of the ENVS major, now is a great time to start looking! Start today by joining Emory’s Green Career Cluster. Set up a meeting with Paul Bredderman in Emory’s Career Center to get ideas about where to look for an internship.

Good luck and happy discovering!