Intern name: Jake Pekarna
Major: Environmental Studies
Title: Conservation Apprentice
Place of internship: Scott County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD)
How did you find out about the internship and what was the application process like?
I primarily found out about this position through friends who had worked with the Conservation Corps in the past, or once had similar internships. I also knew a couple people who worked in the Scott County soil and water conservation district, and they strongly encouraged me to apply for their location. The application process was very reasonable with standards such as listing references, creating a cover letter, and participating in an interview.
What were some of the internship highlights?
Variety: My internship involved a spectrum of duties that kept me busy and introduced me to new responsibilities and tasks. This kept things rather new and exciting for me.
What was a typical day like? What were some of your major responsibilities?
For the first few weeks, days usually consisted of me following close instructions or even observing tasks of employed conservationists. Once I started to learn the ropes and get used to tasks, then I gained a little independence and was able to do efficient work on my own, or at least take initiative on tasks and responsibilities. A typical work day started at 7:00am and would end at 4:30pm. Some of my major responsibilities included: GPS surveying, soil and erosion inspections, stream bank stabilization projects, GIS software projects, installing rain-gardens and native prairies, and taking lake water discharge measurements.
What were some of the challenges of your internship?
The hardest thing for me personally was the fact that most of these tasks were completely new to me. Sure, I had used GIS in the classroom and had heard about some of these things in my textbooks, but actually doing hands on, applicable work in the field was completely foreign. It required me to work hard, learn, and be patient if things didn't go well right away. Eventually however, things smooth themselves out as you become used to it.
What did you learn?
I learned technical skills that were useful out in the field, types of conservation projects available for farmers, how to use GPS mapping applications, effectively working with a group, identifying native vegetation, and how to successfully communicate with landowners. More importantly, I learned what it is that I am passionate about when it comes to work. This was a position that gave great insight to what I can do with an environmental studies degree.
What advice would you give other students interested in internships?
Don't be afraid to learn! You won't know everything about the internship that you start. Go in with an open mind that is ready to take on new tasks, and be sure to learn from them. Take every task given and do your absolute best with it. Know that an internship is largely what you make it to be--make it something meaningful.