Hello, my name is Hannah and I am an AmeriCorps intern for Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. The internship is not only enjoyable, but I am earning 1.5 high school credits and a scholarship for finishing 300 hours as an intern. My responsibilities as an intern are not as easy as getting coffee or making copies. The internship is incredibly filled with things to do, including working with students, assisting scientists and learning as much as possible about the ocean.
Assisting with students as an intern is consistently amusing. As each class changes so do the questions, personalities, and simplicity of the lessons. Children have a unique way of challenging ideas and their thoughts are always inspiring me to ask more questions and to generally be more inquisitive. Some adolescents are very happy to partake in tasks, such as the “secrets of the sand” activity, where children view sands from around the world under high powered microscopes seeing details they never could before. Other activities may not be so popular with squeamish children, such as when we dissect an albatross bolus (a pellet similar to that of an owl, regurgitated by the baby albatross). Whose curiosity wouldn't be piqued by such a smelly gift? When dissecting the albatross bolus the children find that they are filled with plastic marine debris, demonstrating the impact of humans on wildlife. Familiarizing children's minds with important ideas is very important to me and I help guide them regularly while working for the education branch of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
A couple of weeks ago I toured the innards of the Seattle Aquarium. I have gained a deep appreciation of how large indoor aquatic systems are maintained for sustaining marine life and of how important the roles of all the employees and volunteers truly are. Equipment was highly organized throughout the aquarium, with clear labels on absolutely everything. After the more serious, behind the scenes tour we were also able to walk around the aquarium to see the marine life and how they behave within their surroundings. To see the birds and shores exhibit was an enlightening experience for me, being able to see Rhinoceros Auklets and Tufted Puffins dive underneath the water to search for food, appearing to “fly” under the surface was something I had never seen before.
In the first couple of months of my internship, I've learned many new skills. When doing something new, figuring out how to accomplish the task at hand is half the task itself, and half the fun. When I was first told that I would be processing data for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth (CTD) moorings I had no idea what they even are. It turns out a CTD is an electronic instrument regularly used by oceanographers that continuously records salinity (by measuring conductivity), temperature, and depth as the instrument is lowered and raised from a ship. In the sanctuary there are several of these that all record data, and it is the processing team’s job to take the raw, unusable, data and process it into data that can be used and recognized by scientists to help them understand the condition of the ocean.
Seeing young children’s eyes open wide like deer’s after I have shown them how to make a discovery of their own is beyond my ability to describe. Exploring the inner workings of the Seattle Aquarium and the behind the scenes of their facilities was a stirring venture. Being the one of the first to see the new CDT moorings data for the ocean off the coast of Washington is an inspirational task. Unearthing the clandestine and unfathomed things in life is an infatuation of mine, and as an AmeriCorps intern for Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary I am achieving all of this. With this only being a fraction of what I do here I stay very entertained and I am always busy with something. This is a great opportunity for me. Maybe an internship is available for you, or just what I’m doing is interesting to you. To learn more about Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and ways you can be involved go to http://olympiccoast.noaa.gov/welcome.html.