Midsummer Internship Update

The second two weeks of my internship at Seaside Sustainability brought some challenges for the Marine citizen sciences team, the project group in which I am working. The first week consisted of much trouble shooting with Rick, the boat mechanic, trying to fix some issues Seaside was having with our two marine citizen science boats. While Rick spent his time trying to fix our boats so we could continue our data collection and conservation projects in the field, the science interns got the chance to work at the office for a change. In this first week we were given a number of grant applications to complete for a number of different projects Seaside hopes to get the money to carry out.  A lot of these projects were educational programs which require certain machinery and technology to use in the field. For example, the grant which I worked the most on was an application for the funding to buy a water quality testing probe which would be used in a community education program to teach students on the North Shore about water quality and the health of local marine ecosystems.

Through the writing of these proposals I gained valuable experience learning the craft of grant-writing, which is a crucial skill when working in a non-profit setting. Non-profits get the majority of their funding through grants so it is extremely important to be able to write them well when working for a non-profit. Before Seaside, the only experience I had writing a grant was in my conservation biology class last semester where we each wrote a grant for a conservation project we had made up. It was really cool to be able to apply this base level knowledge to a real-life project and improve these surface level skills within a workplace setting.

The second of these two weeks were also not spent on the boat as the mechanical issues we were facing were much worse than previously thought! This meant once again we were in the office, but this time doing things other than writing grants. This week consisted more of a number of more minor projects and tasks. For one task we placed different types of decomposable plastic products in lobster traps and tied them to a number of docks around Gloucester Harbor. The goal of this small project is to check on the traps periodically and test how well each product type decomposes over time. By having this data recorded locally, we will have a list of good alternatives to single-use plastics which we can offer to the North shore community as part of Seaside’s initiative to ban single-use plastics in the many towns of this area.

We also participated in another part of this single-use plastic ban initiative by doing canvassing in the neighboring town of Rockport, MA. In Rockport we went around to different businesses on the Main Street and asked them a series of questions we had written up in regards to their business’s single-use plastic use and their thoughts on how a ban on these plastics would effect their business and the community. This canvassing was done in preparation for a single-use plastic ban bylaw which will be written by one team of interns at Seaside which will work to ban plastic water bottles and balloons in Rockport, MA by 2020. This was an interesting experience because it gave us a chance to talk to a number of local residents and business owners about the effects of a plastic ban and give them a chance to voice their concerns. This information will be helpful to seaside moving forward and it will allow us to better form our arguments when bringing the bylaw to town hall for voting.

Although the past two weeks did not consist of the marine science work I was expecting from this internship, I have gained valuable experience carrying out a number of other tasks which have taught me skills which are crucial to non-profit work. This experience has been a great addition to my internship as a whole and I now feel I will leave this Summer with a far wider scope of skills and knowledge then I had expected. Who knows what surprises there are to come, and fingers crossed that the boats will be fixed soon!

Welcome to Seaside!

My internship is located at Seaside Sustainability’s intern office in Gloucester, MA, a small beach town on the north shore of Massachusetts. At the intern office there are about 15-20 Seaside interns who work each day, split up into groups based on intern-type and project. Although Seaside is an environmental non-profit, the interns that work there possess a wide-range of knowledge on different subject matter. The marine science interns who I work with are primarily the scientists who go out in the field to perform data collection and various conservation methods. However, in the office there are interns focused on a number of other things such as social media, marketing, event planning and finance. Just being in this environment of such diverse interests has already given me a good taste of the need for people of many different academic backgrounds in a non-profit setting. I am excited to learn about what the other interns do in addition to what I do in my own projects to gain a more holistic understanding of the action being taken at Seaside.

My first week at seaside as a marine science intern was a whirlwind of training, meeting new people and learning new conservation techniques. My very first day was spent out on the marine science boat where we had boat training led by Rick, Seaside’s boat mechanic. We learned boating etiquette and maintenance on the Boston whaler seaside uses for marine science practices in north shore waters. Over the next two days we were able to put our boat training to practice and drove out to some of the crab traps set up just outside Gloucester harbor. I learned that Seaside keeps 10 crab traps along the Coast of Cape Ann to catch an invasive species called the green crab. At each location we learned how to pull the traps out of the water and then measure the crabs which involved the somewhat scary processes of holding them! We also learned how to tell the difference between a green crab and other native species of crabs. We then collected the green crabs in bags which were brought back to shore to be sold to local seafood restaurants. This practice is very important to the Cape Ann marine ecosystem as green crabs are invasive and thus greatly disrupt the food chain in this area. By catching and removing green crabs, Seaside is able to help mitigate this problem and bring the marine ecosystem back to its natural state.

The next week involved learning how to perform mudflat acidification testing,  one of the data collection methods important to the marine science program at seaside. We took the boat to some of the mudflats near Gloucester harbor and used a probe to test pH and calcium carbonate levels. Seaside interns are tasked with collecting this data which is then sent to Salem Sound Coast watch, one of our partner organizations. This data is used to measure the relationship between increases in atmospheric CO2 levels and ocean acidification in north shore waters. Ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide, created by the burning of fossil fuels, is absorbed by water. This causes the pH and calcium carbonate concentrations in the water to drop creating marine environments with higher levels of acidity which is dangerous to marine organisms. Through data collection in the mudflats around the north shore, seaside is able to compile information regarding the health of north shore marine environments, so that necessary actions can be taken to improve water quality in these areas.

During my first two weeks at Seaside I learned a number of important marine science conservation techniques which allowed me to put what I’ve learned in classes at Dickinson into practice. I have learned about environmental issues such as invasive species and ocean acidification in the past and it was very interesting to have hands on experience mitigating and collecting data regarding these problems. I am also beginning to form an understanding of the workings of a non-profit organization and the extensive work that goes into keep it running efficiently and successfully. I have had a great first two weeks at Seaside and I am excited for what’s to come this summer!