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Reflections of a Past Internship -Cameron Pittman

Last semester I was fortunate to be able to intern at the Georgia Museum of Natural History. It was a goal that I had since freshman year to work with the collections. When I decided to apply for the internship last semester, I knew exactly which collection I would want to work with. Luckily, I knew this due to both my current area of study and plans for my future career. I applied and was accepted to work with the Vertebrate Collection under the supervision of Nikki Castleberry. Withcam blog post 25,000 mammal specimens, including study skins, skeletal material, and alcohol preserved materials, there’s plenty to see and experience.

At the beginning of the semester, the interns with the vertebrate collection were assigned the projects and jobs that would hopefully keep us busy for the semester. This held true, as there are still tasks, I wish I could have continued with or completed. A project that I was assigned to personally was the coral-cleaning project. Under the direction of Nicole Pontzer, Curatorial Staff, and administrator of the ichthyology and coral collections, I was set up to help restore the corals that had been transferred to the annex under undesired conditions. This consisted of the processes of soaking marked corals in a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water and allowing them to rest out in the sun to assist in the “bleaching.” This would be a cycle where until the corals reached the desired cleanliness, the water would be changed and then taken out into the sun again. Depending on the size of the coral and the level of cleaning necessary, the process would take anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks. Over the semester, I had gone through about 50 coral pieces, and there is plenty more to work on. This being one of the projects that will require more time than I had.

A job that all the interns were assigned to was top off fluids in the range of the annex. We were to check fluid levels of the alcohol preserved specimens and top off with 70% ethanol if low. We were also to check lids and containers and replace jars or seals if needed. This was a project to make that required little effort and was suitable for those days that I did not want to get into a new project. The range holds over 1 million specimens of fishes with an emphasis on the southeastern United States fauna. This project just perpetually flows over from semester to semester, as the project will never be indeed done, and there will always be more fish to the top.

My favorite project has been the work dedicated to the whale collection. The museum holds the most extensive Minke whale collection in the U.S., and that’s only a fraction of the whales that are housed here. A part of the project was moving marine mammals to mezzanine as we needed more space on the ground floor. We were also tasked with whale-cleaning, where we scrubbed skulls and allowed them to dry in the sun. A remarkable opportunity was to help with the shipment of whales from Northeastern University, which also include the skeleton of a blue whale. We spent the day moving boxes and bones inside the annex, and it was outstanding seeing the size and condition of these specimen. This was an experience that I will share with others to summarize my experience with the museum.

My time with the museum has yielded many great opportunities. It honed many skills that I believe are necessary for when I graduate. My time management, organizational style, and team cooperation skills improved through my time there. I am thankful for this experience and hope to continue work in natural history work in the future.

Cameron is a fourth-year wildlife sciences major

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Glad I Took the Leap- Joseph Brown

blog postThis past summer I accepted an internship from the South Dakota State Department of Agriculture Resource Conservation and Forestry Division. I used this internship as an opportunity to also complete the internship requirement at Warnell. I lived in Rapid City, South Dakota at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology dorms. I did most of my work throughout the Black Hills and Custer State Park. My task varied from day to day and it was a very dynamic workplace. My week consisted of monitoring pine insect beetle populations, monitoring forest health, and implementing gypsy moth traps. I learned many new skills while working for those three months. It was a great experience and I’m truly grateful I was presented the opportunity to learn more about the field I am in. I also took advantage of the great fishing South Dakota and Wyoming have to offer while in the area. I spent many of my weekends camping and fishing in the backcountry. I also saw so many different species of wildlife that I have never seen before such as bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and elk. This was an extremely positive experience and I’m glad I took the leap of faith and traveled far from home. I gained some valuable knowledge and experiences during my time in South Dakota.

I never would have pictured myself doing anything like this 4 years ago, but Warnell pushed me to be the best I could be. I really love how Warnell encourages students to get hands-on job experience through internships. It is a great way for students to get real-life experience and decide they would like to work in a certain area. This also helps students have an upper edge on other candidates in the job field after graduation.

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We are the Body- Sarah Klinect

Klinect.Firephoto - CopyWhile I was in church a couple of weeks ago, the sermon was on the passage of scripture found in 1st Corinthians chapter 12 where Paul is discussing in his letter that the body of believers consists of one body with many members. The point of the passage is that the foot, eye, ear, and other seemingly unimportant members of the body can not exist and operate on their own, but instead they need to work together to be a functional body. I was struck by the similarities between the message of the passage and the temptation that may be present within the natural resource community. As a future forester, it is tempting to think that because I have knowledge about best management practices (BMPs), wildlife habitat requirements, and some human dynamics due to classes I have taken at Warnell that I know how to handle any natural resource issue, but that would be arrogant and irresponsible.

In my future career, I may need to consult with fellow professionals that specialize in policy, gopher tortoise habitat, or geographic information systems (GIS) to help determine the best management avenues to achieve management objectives. It would be unprofessional and unwise to think that I could determine the best course of action when I am a layman with certain topics. Just like the foot, eye, and ear in the biblical illustration, I need to realize that everyone in that fellow natural resource professionals are quintessential assets in determining the best management plans. Ignoring what my feet are doing and telling me would just cause me to stumble around and my productivity would be inhibited. I need to listen to those around me and consider their professional advice because ultimately it will strengthen my knowledge base and reflect respect and attention to my peers, colleagues, and counterparts.


Sarah is a senior Foresty major

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Glad I Took the Leap – Ben Prot

Warnell’s job/internship board is perhaps the greatest resource you will use while in school. Internships are a great way to broaden your horizons. What you learn in class can be transferred to real work in the field. This past summer, I was an intern with the EE99A110-3F40-40A1-B996-D43D512B4D54US Fish and Wildlife Service at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge in Starkville, MS. I was hired as a forest technician to assist with whatever projects the forester and wildlife biologist at the refuge were working on that summer.

I spent my time conducting vegetation surveys, listening for calls during bird counts, applying herbicides, and interacting with the public. Doing this work, I was able to see and understand the realities of work outside of the academic realm. There is so much that you learn in class that can be expanded upon while working outside with professionals. Dendrology, field measurements, wildlife techniques, forest mensuration are all very important classes that you might take at Warnell; however, I believe that the skills learned in these classes are enhanced through practice and application in the woods.

I like to believe that most students in Warnell enjoy being outside in nature. If you end FC63698B-E4A4-45E5-902D-C26B327570A4up as an intern with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, you will essentially eat, sleep, and breathe the woods. I was outside all day, almost every day, working on the refuge, and I loved every minute of it. The work was not always easy. Our daily tasks could sometimes be laborious or menial, but it was truly rewarding to know that what we were doing had a positive physical impact on the plants and animals on the refuge. After my internship this summer, I Blog4wholeheartedly believe that if you love what you do, it will not feel like work.

I felt lucky to be out in the trees every day. That is why I highly recommend internships for all my cohorts. Even if you are nervous about an opportunity, I say take the leap. College is about trying new things and learning about who you are as a person. Internships are perfect for students that are just trying to see what kind of jobs they might want in the future. They are also great for establishingBlog3 professional connections and seeing how companies and organizations operate in the real world. You never know what road an internship might take you on: you might find a career, make great friends, see some wild things, or at least be surrounded by some trees. I had a wonderful experience last summer, and I know that I am glad that I took the leap and applied for my internship.

Ben is a senior Wildlife and Foresty student 

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Senior Project at Fort Yargo State Park- Jamie Madsen

As a senior at Warnell, I have the pleasure of taking the famous Senior Project this semester. Every student has to complete either senior project or senior thesis before they can graduate. As someone who plans to start working straight out of my undergrad, I chose senior project in hopes of gaining a little bit more real-world experience before I actually go out into the real world. So, what is senior project exactly? It is a group of interdisciplinary students from Warnell working together for a client in a related industry to create a project proposal that meets the needs and objectives of that client.

For my senior project, I am working with another PRTM major, and a wildlife (pre-vet) major and we are working on an Environmental Education (EE) project for Fort Yargo State Park in Winder, Georgia. Having worked there last summer, I knew that the park manager, Julia Autry, was in need of a new interpretive center, and even had some ideas on how to make EE better at the park. So, the scope of our project is to propose three alternative plans on how Julia could potentially utilize the old visitor center for a new interpretive center, and how she could also increase the quality of the programs offered in order to increase visitation.

First, we gathered historical data from Julia to learn more about the history of EE at the park and how it currently operates. There are many different types of programs offered, but our main focus is the field trip/school programs. We learned that currently, the park has very few clients in the realm of EE, and we inferred that this might be a result of only having one part-time naturalist to run the EE program, and potentially a lack of advertising for the program.

Naturally, we all wanted to jump into the fun part and start planning the new interpretive center, and how we could grow the program. But we needed a way to narrow down our focus and find a theme to work with since we basically had a blank canvas and could take the project in any direction. So rather than following the temptation to make the interpretive center come to life as our wildest dreams, we decided that Fort Yargo would benefit most from catering to its own market. We designed a short survey to send out to elementary schools within a 20-mile radius of the park to give us feedback on a few things. The survey was filtered to ask different questions based on if the teacher had been to Fort Yargo or not. We asked questions to gauge what types of EE experiences teachers were looking for in field trips, why they had or had not taken their class to Fort Yargo, and what the biggest factor is in making the decision on where to go on a field trip.

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[Photograph: This is the inside of the old visitor center/new interpretive center that my senior project group will be redesigning as part of the enhancement of Fort Yargo State Park’s environmental education program (Winder, Georgia).]

At the current time, we are in the midst of collecting surveys, so the analysis and proposal have not been completed yet. My group and I are very pleased with the progress of our senior project, and are excited to see what kind of data we receive and how we can put that to good use in our recommendations for the environmental education platform at Fort Yargo State Park! Senior Project has been very exciting, and I can’t wait to put together the final project! Go Dawgs!

Jamie is a senior PTRM major here at Warnell

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Baptism by Fire- Katy Callaghan

This summer, I interned with USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had never even heard of Wildlife Services, but I needed a summer job, so I accepted the position. If you have ever heard the saying “baptism by fire” this internship was exactly that. Wildlife damage management was a relatively new concept to me, as I had just finished my first year in the Warnell professional program, so an entire government agency dedicated to that, was fascinating.k1

Most of the employees at Wildlife Services are Warnell alumni, so they were great resources for my many questions about school and careers. My boss, Odin Stephens, was recently promoted to State Director when I started my internship. He learned about Wildlife Services when he started at Warnell, like I did, and made it his mission to work for them one day. He completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Warnell, and was hired soon after and has been working for the agency ever since.

The species that we most often dealt with were deer, feral pigs, geese, beavers, vultures, raccoons, and coyotes. “Busy work” around the office consisted of building vulture effigies, making snares and waxing foothold traps. I also addressed and stuffed envelopes for the annual rabies aerial bait drop program. I assisted in setting and running a trap line on a WMA in South Georgia to manages for doves and quail on their land. However, my favorite projects I worked on this summer had to do with feral pigs. They are fascinating animals and are incredibly smart, which makes managing them a real challenge. I really enjoyed learning about their behavior and biology in order to effectively mitigate the damage they cause in different situations. Overall it was a summer of firsts, I did countless things that were completely out of my comfort zone. I went home every day covered in dirt, blood, and sweat. This internship opened my eyes to an entirely different side of wildlife management. I now have a better understanding of why there is a need for wildlife damage management, and I plan to pursue a career in this field.

Katy Callaghan is a senior wildlife science major

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Let’s Eat – Jamie Madsen

Last semester I had the opportunity to work with two amazing professors, Dr. Irwin and Dr. Fuhrman, to create an environmental education lesson plan to fulfill my Environmental Education Capstone credit. They walked me through the process of defining learning objectives and evaluation tools. After a lot of hard work and planning, I was ready to put my plan into action!

Last Thursday, I went to a place called Extra Special People (ESP), where I would be doing my interpretation, and was greeted with such a warm welcome. The students there were from all walks of life, young and old, with all different abilities. I was so excited to be working with them! 

I first introduced the topic: the origin of food. When I asked them where food comes from, I got a couple of giggles and one student yelled out, “the grocery store!” while a few others nodded in agreement. Then we walked through a series of questions and answers that caused them to really think about how their food got to the grocery store, and where did it really come from? Did it come from a farm? From a local garden? From a factory?

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Once we finished talking about food, the students had a chance to put their newfound knowledge into practice. They were split into two “families” and were given fake money and a shopping list to make tacos. Both families were directed to buy all the ingredients on the list, but one family was instructed to buy all fresh/natural foods, while the other was told to simply buy the cheapest version of everything. Afterward, they were all able to tell me why they chose the ingredients, and they could tell me the difference between the two groups. Then they learned how to make tacos! 

It was truly a great experience to be able to see my project through from start to finish. Although I could think of a few things I could’ve done better, I definitely was proud of how smoothly everything went. This is a great tool to be able to test the waters of environmental interpretation since that’s what I will be doing after I graduate! I’ve had a lot of experience with the teaching portion of this prior to teaching at ESP, but not much experience actually creating my own activity plan. I am so grateful for the opportunities provided to me through Warnell.

Jamie Madsen is a senior PTRM student