My internship for the semester is with the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education and my mentor is the center director, Karen Clark. Not to start off this post bragging about how incredible of an experience my internship has been, but it literally could not have been better. Karen Clark has been really fun to work with and is simply a fascinating woman in many aspects. As a biologist for N.E.S.T., she has allowed me to become very involved with a wonderful program, which I discussed in my last blog post “Nest or N.E.S.T.?”. At the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, there is also a curator, Sharon Meade, who lightens up my day every time I intern. She is incredibly knowledgeable about the surrounding area’s ecology and history. I have learned so much from her while also having fun at the same time. At the front desk is Elaine Goodwin, who can identify all the local species and is also incredibly knowledgeable. Finally, there is Jane Brown and Sam Stolkes who are seasonal environmental educators. I have worked with the public and schools most frequently with Jane and Sam. Jane has been an absolute blessing to work with and was the person to really show me the ropes around the center. Sam graduated from UNC a few years ago, and he is extremely knowledgeable about many aspects of the environment.
When I started my internship in September, the center still had quite a few people visiting it on a daily basis. This allowed for many educational classes and carts so I often interacted with the public. Discovery carts are quick educational classes that we present on carts for anyone interested in stopping by. On Mondays, I spent the day with Jane
feeding the fish, doing discovery carts, and giving educational classes. We often had classes or carts on Gyotaku, which is Japanese fish printing. All of the fake fish we would use for Gyotaku are fish that you can find in the sound beside the education center. On Wednesdays, I would assist the kayaking class with Sam or Jane. While on this tour, we would talk about the historical background of the area as well as the ecological aspects.
Recently, I have been working more with my canine discovery cart, school outreach programs, and N.E.S.T. volunteer trainings. As a part of my internship goals, I needed to create a discovery cart for the center. Since red wolves and coyotes have recently become a prominent topic in this area, I thought that is was appropriate to create a cart to educate individuals more about them. The cart includes fact sheets on the animals, readings that people can look at, a craft and game for children, and a coyote pelt. I have used this cart a few times since finalizing it and the outcome has been very good. I have done two school outreach programs at elementary schools in Currituck County with Sam. One was presenting Sea Turtles in Jeopardy and the other was an interactive Velcro Fishing program. Moreover, there are often N.E.S.T. trainings at the education center that I help Karen with. I still continue to work with N.E.S.T. as explained in my earlier N.E.S.T. blogpost and will throughout the rest of my time in the Outer Banks. Finally, I continue to feed the fish every time I intern, but now I work more with the chemistry of the aquarium. Sam has taught me how to find the salinity and dissolved oxygen concentrations of the aquariums.
If you are an upcoming student reading this and you have any interest in environmental education, this internship is the way to go. I have gained experience and knowledge that has broadened my education in ways that sitting in a classroom cannot.