Hey, everyone! It’s Cassandra, here to tell you all about
the best internship anyone’s every had here at the OBXFS, also known as an internship at the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education. By best, I mean that everyone I’ve worked with has been amazing, I’ve learned so much, and I’ve really never felt like what I’m doing is work. As well, just to point out how much I’ve enjoyed it, it’s generally an hour and fifteen minute drive from Manteo to the Center, and I can’t even complain about that!
Let me take a moment to talk about my internship mentor, Karen Clark. My first day interning, she invited me to sit in on a NEST sea turtle nest dig the next evening. Just like that. She always has great stories and great ideas, and is the most understanding, knowledgeable, and competent person I’ve ever met. She’s the Coordinator for the entire Center program, and also works with NEST and MMSN, the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, on top of who knows what else. Long story short, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have worked with her and to have been able to learn from her amazing experiences.
I’ve done a ton during my time here. At the start of my internship, we were still in summer programs, so I helped teach beginning archery for children and adults, an educational story time and crafts for young children and an interactive cart teaching people about seashells and other beach finds. I was also lucky enough to be able to participate in a lot of NEST activities, like checking turtle nests with volunteers and sitting in on nest digs. As the tourism season started winding down, some of our classes were rotated out, and I began helping run a kayaking trip, an educational maritime forest walk, and a “Sampling the Sound” class, where kids and their parents can use nets to catch fish, water insects, and other organisms living in the water here and learn more about them. I’ve also been able to help set up and collect wildlife cameras in the nearby maritime forest preserve, and then go through the photos to identify what sorts of critters have been living their lives in the area! Among the best photos I’ve seen are pictures of feral horses, coyotes, raccoons, and several resident white-tailed deer.
On top of helping out with classes and activities, I also was put in charge of designing a new educational board as my own personal project. I chose to focus on the habitat value of both ocean and sound shorelines, with an interactive and multi-media approach, using flip-up cards, fabrics, and 3-D animal cutouts to create the final product. Hopefully people will see it as a fun and interesting approach to learning more about the animals that call the marshes, dunes, and waters of the Outer Banks home!
Although I’ve really enjoyed and learned from all of the educational activities I’ve helped run and participate in, my favorite part of my internship here has been the wildlife. Anyone in my field site group will tell you I adore snakes, and there have been so many here! From cottonmouths on the lawn to black rats sunning themselves on the steps, I’ve been able to get a ton of great photos and just appreciate having them here. There are also resident tree frogs in the shed, and a gray fox that I’ve been lucky enough to glimpse on occasion. The grounds here are home to a great many raccoons, and you can see their tracks running across the mud by the boat ramp every morning. Being able to see and be a part of nature here while helping teach other people, especially children, more about the world we live in has been an eye-opening experience, and has definitely made me consider environmental education as a career path more strongly than I might have before.