Intern Name: Nathan Geislinger
Major: Environmental Studies
Title: Volunteer Intern Field Data Collection Invasive Species
Place of Internship: Department of Natural Resources, Sauk Rapids, MN
How did you find out about the internship and what was the application process like?
I went into the MN DNR's office in Sauk Rapids to get information for a project I was working on for my Geographic Information System (GIS) class at St. John's University at the time. In the mean time, I decided to ask about internship possibilities. They said they would ask around and get back to me. Due to my short summer ahead, I didn't think much of it or try for many internships. However, the Invasive Species Specialist sent me an email saying they needed help. It ended up being a volunteer internship, so there wasn't really an application process.
What were some of the internship highlights?
Being in the boat every day was a highlight in itself. I also got the opportunity to educate elementary students, as well as citizens out on the lake, about aquatic invasive species in Minnesota. Overall, making connections with the employees at the MN DNR office really helped me enjoy my time there. I came to the realization that the people in the workforce were once in college just like we are.
What was a typical day like? What were some of your major responsibilities?
There was a great mixture of field and office work. Many times I had to georeference. This is the process of taking a normal map and putting it onto our GIS program, which we could then transfer to our GPS. We would upload the coordinates from our ArcGIS to the GPS. Then we would go hook up the boat and ensure we had all necessary equipment for the day. Once we arrived at the lake, we surveyed the assigned plan areas in which each invasive species were previously located. At each point, we would throw out a rake to collect plant samples, identify each species, and determine their densities. This helped us determine whether or not it was necessary to remove the invasive species from the area. We would also check the water clarity with a secchi disk. Upon return to the office, we uploaded the data to our program and filed the sample analysis.
What were some of the challenges of your internship?
One of the initial challenges was learning the many plant species. I also had to come up with a system to determine plant density that correlated with the densities of the Aquatic Invasive Species Department. Editing information on ArcGIS caused problems at times, but as with everything in the program, it takes time to accomplish each task or map.
What did you learn?
My best skill I learned was how to identify aquatic plant life. I also learned a great deal on the ArcGIS program through real life applications. This was much different than work done in the classroom. My ability to work and communicate with people increased because I had to interact with others to be successful in my tasks. It is also important to comprehend what people from other companies that you work with want, and to clarify what you want from them. Not everyone has the same skills and knowledge so you need to work together to grasp each other's concepts.
What advice would you give other students interested in internships?
Apply early for internships. Look for positions that you would like to some day work in so you can get a feel for if that's what you'd like to do after you graduate. Also, keep in mind that some places don't have internships but are willing to make them, or there is the opportunity for unpaid internships.