Hey all IBH students past and present,
Dr. Cheng thought it'd be cool for me to quickly chronicle my summer experience working at a national park through the Student Conservation Association. I just graduated from the IBH program in May and last winter I was thinking, "what do I want to do the summer after graduating?" Grad school and the search for full-time positions were viable options, but I hoped to enjoy the summer marking the end of 16+ consecutive years of school and go on an adventure.
The Student Conservation Association was founded in 1957 to provide America's youth with a means to participate in national conservation efforts and today still offers students opportunities to serve in the U.S. National Park system or other relevant environmental agencies. There are tons of internship opportunities available, ranging from 1 or 2 months to over a year and they provide stipends for travel and food as well as provide housing for interns.
This past summer I worked as a natural resources intern for the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock, Vermont. After driving out to Vermont at the end of May, my responsibilities for the next three months mainly included clearing the park of 15+ invasive plant species, GPS tracking of invasive populations, creating GIS maps to visualize the spread and severity of these populations, and formulating invasive management plans for the park and other local spaces.
I had previously done a summer REU program through the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute down in Panamá and my research of U of I mainly consisted of the ecological interactions between local garden plants and mosquito species that act as disease vectors. I wanted to spend the summer enjoying the outdoors, away from IL, and doing something that could introduce me to the NPS and conservation management work. Although my career plan has shifted slightly (toward international relations, U.S. Dept. of State), the summer position with the SCA was really valuable. The internship was in fact a partnership between the SCA, the National Park Service, and the Dept. of the Interior.
Additionally, many SCA internships include an AmeriCorps option through which after completing a minimum number of service hours, you receive an education award (3 months positions get around $1500). This money is usually applied to student loans or for further education later on. SCA internship hours also count toward something called Public Land Corps hours. Once you complete a minimum of 640 hours of PLC hours, you are eligible for non-competitive hiring status for government positions. So even though I was working for the NPS, I can use this status (meaning I only would compete against other govt. applicants, not civilian ones) to apply for State Dept. positions. In the normally convoluted hiring process for government positions, this expedites the process and makes it much smoother.
I would highly recommend SCA summer internships for those looking to spend a summer outdoors and doing some type of environmental work. This could include invasive species work, interpretation at a visitor's center, curatorial work, maintenance, and many other fields. You can check out the available options at the SCA website:
If anyone has any questions about what I did this summer, feel free to message me. SCA is a highly reputed organization and a great agency to work for if you enjoy environmental work.
IBH students travel the world, publish research papers, and do all sorts of amazing things