Interning at the Town of Nags Head Planning Department (a planning perspective)

About Me

Hi. My name is Steve Yoon and, I’m a junior majoring in Environmental Science Quantitative Track and minoring in GIS. I’m not sure what I want to do in the future but I’ve always enjoyed planning and, after taking ENEC 350 with Dr. Hornstein, I’ve been semi-interested in environmental law. So here I am at the Town of Nags Head Planning Department.

My Project

A living shoreline is a type of green infrastructure that uses natural materials such as vegetation or oysters with sills to stabilize the shoreline from erosion and protect properties from storms. Currently, the living shoreline project for the Town of Nags Head is in the initial planning process; Anna and my project were to create a toolkit of legal barriers that might prevent the implementation of living shoreline along the estuarine sound side.

Nags Head sign from Ireland that hangs in our office.

Quick Disclaimer: If you want the legal details of implementing the living shoreline, you should go read Anna’s blog “Interning at the Town of Nags Head Planning Department (a legal perspective).”

Why do we plan? Because we want to make sure rights of property owners is respected and to avoid any hostility or possible litigation. Planning before implementing the living shoreline is especially important in Nags Head because private property owners own the sound property up to the mean high-water line and, you DON’T want to mess with their property and riparian rights. “Eminent domain” or “no kayak launch” are fight words no one wants to engage in.

But perhaps the more important reason for planning is because you don’t want to spend millions of dollars to fail. Imagine this. Every property owner along the sound loves the idea of a living shoreline for its erosion protection. The Town gladly comes in and builds the living shoreline. Hooray! But the wind is too strong so your plants are being smothered by sediments and you’re wondering why you didn’t do any wind studies as recommended and soon a hurricane comes and rips the entire living shoreline up and you don’t know what to do because you didn’t earmark any money or time or resource for maintenance and reconstruction and now everyone is protecting their properties with bulkheads instead and your living shoreline is now a shoreline to nothing. From a planning perspective, this happened because the Town viewed the living shoreline as a project and not an infrastructure. Just like how our roads and wastewater system are maintained, the living shoreline must be maintained for and planned as infrastructure. Only then can the Town accomplish their vision of what they want their community to look like: a thriving coastal town with a healthy shoreline.

This insight is a result of the multiple interviews we had conducted with town planners and coastal experts. We compiled our interview findings with our own research to create a HUGE toolkit that will help launch the living shoreline project in Nags Head.

My Experiences

Interviewing Erin Fleckenstein

One of my favorite interviews was with Erin Fleckenstein, a costal scientist and regional manager at the NC Coastal Federation. She had plenty of experience with living shorelines and, a lot of knowledge regarding the permitting process of the living shoreline. This was interesting because when I think of planning, I don’t necessary think of the permitting process and just how complicated yet essential it can be. We also entertained the idea of a living shoreline possibly acting as a wetland mitigation bank which, hopefully, will encourage more living shoreline.

Webinar of water quality management

Not everything was about the living shoreline. Holly White, my mentor and Principal Planner at the Town of Nags Head, knew I was interested in storm resilient and stormwater planning. So, Holly would often send me webinars and training related to planning that I can listen to and enjoy whenever I want to. The most memorable webinar was the First Annual Water Adaptations to Ensure Regional Success Summit, hosted by Republican Congressmen Murphy. This had sparked my interest because… well… climate change, water, and Republican never seemed to fit well in one room. It was very interesting. They had invited multiple environmental and climate experts to educate what is happening with our water including Dr. Paerl, the author of the journal that I was preparing a presentation for! It was an energizing moment that made me super passionate about hypoxia (10/10 recommend this paper for Lindsay’s ecology class. It’s super interesting and you get to talk about hurricanes and how it kills fish. I also recommend Kirwan and Megonigal).

Trip to Nags Head Woods

We went to Nags Head Woods with Holly, Kate, and the consultants to see the marsh shoreline. It was a fun day of lunch, fieldtrip, and meeting experts who gave us life advice on what we should do post-college. Never pay for gradschool or PhD. They should be funded. Then, Anna kept testing me on tree species even though she knew that I’m not very observant and I can’t differentiate trees. Sigh.

Finishing the Toolkit

Oh my God. Today was the day Anna and I wanted to finish our toolkit and we, uh, she, uh, wow, uh, it was amazing. I’ve never been so productive in my life. I worked hard from 9-11:45AM. Then I ate. Then I worked hard again from 1PM to 6:37PM. We

Last day as Interns at the Town of Nags Head

usually get off at 5PM but Anna inspired me to work harder and harder until we met our goal. It was very dark outside and it was the first time we had to turn on our lights. The reason why I mention my last day is because I felt a surge of thankfulness as Anna and I fixed our final element of the toolkit. I was thankful for everyone who was excited to meet us for our interviews because they allowed us to pick their brains for valuable information. I was thankful to Holly and Kate, our mentors, for being so kind and simply wanting the best for our future planning and legal career. I was thankful to Anna for being an amazing partner who made this internship just the best. Living Shoreline! You better thank Anna and I once you’re planted along the Town of Nags Head!


Super dark outside when we finished our toolkit. If you look closely, you can see Anna’s head.



Favorite Moments

Our trip to Duck where I got to try donuts on a stick. I love the Outer Banks.

DONUT ON A STICK. But not really on a stick? Well sort of. It’s on a stick in a cup.


I also loved our trip to the beach during our break. They were great moments to clear our head from all the screen time we had.

Anna chasing sea foam during our beach break.


My internship with the planning department of the Town of Nags Head was perfect. I enjoyed all the interviews we conducted, all the new people I met, and all the chats and jokes Anna, our mentors, and I shared throughout our time together. Local planners are the most hardworking and most underappreciated people of all times. They’re the cornerstone to a healthy and vibrant community and I’m proud to have been a part of it.

Holly, Kate, Anna. If you are reading this I want to say that I am thankful for the amazing time you all have gifted me with during our time together. I will take this experience to become a great planner for the communities that I will one day serve. I will always pray for your health and wellbeing.

Future OBXFS students, if you like a super chill workplace, snacks and home baked pastries, great people, and working a job that makes change in the community I recommend interning with the Town of Nags Head.

P.S. Also, be on the watch out for our debut podcast coming to you soon!


  • Steve Yoon, OBXFS 2021

My Internship at the Outer Banks Community Foundation

When Professors Linda D’Anna and Lindsay Dubbs began their preliminary OBXFS interviews last spring, I was at a loss for words when asked about what internships I was interested in. With their suggestion, I looked at internship blog posts of former OBXFS students. I had no better indication of what career path would be valuable to explore during my time studying at the coast. Needless to say, I was no help in my internship allocation process, and I express my sincerest apologies to Linda D’Anna Ph.D. Despite being the last person to find out my internship placement and the nervousness that came from not knowing, I can honestly say that in my opinion I had the best internship experience ever! 

The Outer Banks Community Foundation is a 501(c)3, philanthropic organization that grants money to the nonprofits addressing the Outer Banks’ most pressing issues. The OBCF and most community foundations function as a liaison between the community’s donors and local non-profit organizations. Notable organizations that we work with are Dare County Arts Council, Network for Endangered Sea Turtles, Mane & Tail and many more. The OBCF also administers 59 scholarships to deserving students graduating from Dare County High Schools. 

My primary interests working for the OBCF are community development and donor outreach. I completed three projects during my internship. The first was an annual appeal for our current donors that was delivered in the first week of October. We also outreached to around 500 potential new donors with the same flyer. The annual appeal initiates the “season of giving,” which aligns with the holiday season.  I incorporated images from all of our major interest areas in the

community: youth, special needs, disaster relief, humane societies, scholarships and organizations that target local food insecurity to name a handful. To the right and left are the front and back of the 2021 OBCF Annual Appeal.

Another facet that community foundations fill for the philanthropic system is holding and investing donor funds. The purpose of investing endowments is to create “forever funds”. Our investment portfolio has mainly low to moderate risk investments, and a regular accruing interest which combine to ensure that the funds will continue to positively impact the Outer Banks for generations to come. The second project that I completed was a detailed list of all the OBCF fund purpose statements. I did extensive research on our donors and our history of grants written to educate potential patron’s on which fund is best to make donations to support the causes they believe in most.

For background there are several types of funds that we maintain for donors. One type I researched for this project are funds designated to specific organizations, for example the Frank Stick Memorial Fund that supports the Outer Banks History Center and the Don & Catherine Bryan Cultural Series Endowment Fund. The other funds serve a general field of interest, like the Environment Fund and the Helping People Help Animals Fund. These purpose statements will be published on our website www// under our “list of funds” tab. 

The last and final project that I completed for the community foundation was a complete database of nonprofit organizations’ contact information from Corolla to Ocracoke. We work primarily in Dare and Currituck counties. Our goal for this project is to find organizations that do not have a rapport with the OBCF and introduce ourselves. Because we do not give directly to individuals in need, our impacts in the community are only as good as the grant applications we receive. To ensure the most impactful potential projects we want to increase our visibility and availability to the NPOs of the Outer Banks. 

A highlight from my time at the community foundation was getting to volunteer at Dare Art Council’s annual Artrageous Kids Art Festival with one of my mentors, MaryAnn Toboz and my friend from the cohort, Anna. I also appreciated the opportunity to attend our Annual OBCF offsite meeting with the entire OBCF board. I observed as they discussed prospects for the community foundation with our CEO President Chris Swain. 

My time as an intern at the Outer Banks Community Foundation is essential to my professional development and growth as a young adult with varied interests. Before this semester, working in nonprofits and philanthropy was not on my radar for potential career paths. I would like to thank Linda D’Anna for her visionary internship placement. 

My passions flourished in an environment that accepted and improved my skill sets and developed my understanding of social change. I would like to attribute my newfound knowledge about community outreach, development and engagement to the Outer Banks Community Foundation. This wonderful experience wouldn’t be possible without my incredible mentors, MaryAnn Toboz and Nandy Stuart. Our CEO President Chris Swain was a month into his new executive role when I came to intern for the office, and I acknowledge the revolutionary and amazing work he’s accomplishing at the community foundation already. My coworkers Scout Schilling and Jeff Dippold are the administrative and financial glue that keep the whole organization making amazing social change in the community. Special thanks to a renowned man of public service, former Mayor of Nags Head and Interim Director at the OBCF, Bob Muller for his wonderful insights into the world of nonprofits and participation in my projects. I will definitely miss our weekly staff meetings on Mondays, specifically our essential moments of inspiration! 

Interning at the NC Aquarium

Hello! My name is Rebekah and I am a senior studying environmental studies. I have many interests including conservation, wildlife biology, estuarine science, and ecosystem management. Going into this semester, I was very open-minded about my internship placement. While I am very indecisive, I did know I wanted to gain hands-on experience, I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone, and I wanted to learn something new. Interning at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island was the perfect place for me to accomplish all three of those things!

A hungry eastern box turtle munching on his salad.

I interned with Britt Purtee, the head of animal husbandry at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island in Manteo. I had the privilege to learn from Britt and other aquarists including Sheena Jones and Jess Foti. One of the first things Britt told me was that being an aquarist is essentially being a glorified janitor. After my first few days, I could definitely attest to that!


A typical day at the aquarium started with helping Sheena with her salt-water tanks. I learned the interworkings of life support systems- a tank’s plumbing, pumps, skimmers, and filters. I cleaned exhibits and prepped and fed them their food. Sheena taught me how to care for saltwater environments, create diets, target feed specific animals, and how to make sure no one gets left out at feeding time.


Target feeding Big Girl, the sand tiger shark with a long pole with a mackerel on the end.

I also had the opportunity to overcome my fear of snakes and learn from Jess, a herpetologist at the aquarium. Each week I would check temperatures of reptile exhibits, feed lizards and toads, and make box turtle food. I helped with routine medical exams for the reptiles including taking weights, fecal samples, and treating quarantined frogs for nematodes. I helped conduct animal welfare assessments for reptiles and Jess was a great person to talk to about wellness for wild animals in captivity. Jess also took care of the otter exhibit at the aquarium and each week I measured their food and made them treats! I helped implement enrichment activities including changing up exhibit décor, creating puzzle-like toys, and painting!


One of my favorite parts of each day was feeding the sharks in the Graveyard of the Atlantic exhibit. Britt shared his experience with caring for the sharks for the past 20 years and I learned how to care for a large system with predators. It was always fun to feed the sharks and get to know each of their personalities as they gobbled up mackerels and herring.


A container of fish food ready to be broadcast into the tank.

I looked forward to my internship each week and I was so thankful to have an internship where I felt like I was doing work work, not just schoolwork. I loved the hands-on work of husbandry and the constant collaboration and learning within the staff- there is so much to know in this field!



While I gained so many new skills and experiences, learning new things often comes with some humbling moments. There was a day, definitely a Monday, where I dropped an entire container of food into an open lid tank and splashed a bunch of visitors below (they looked up and were very confused why it rained on them indoors) or when I spilled squid ink all over my shoes. I felt like I was in over my head sometimes but my mentors were kind, funny, and eager to share their passions with me.

The otters Finn and Banks painted during an enrichment activity on my last day!




 I really appreciate everyone in the husbandry department at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island, especially Britt, Jess, and Sheena. I am so thankful for the patient and encouraging environment they created!
My internship was one of my favorite parts of being at the field site. To prospective OBXFS students interested in biology, animal care, conservation, or plumbing, I recommend getting in touch with the aquarium.

If you want to reach your 10,000 step goal every day, feel like you can never learn enough, or refine your shrimp peeling skills, being an aquarist will check all of those boxes!


– Rebekah Littauer

Interning with The Nature Conservancy at Nags Head Woods

Hello! My name is Joseph Hernandez and I am a senior at UNC and I am majoring in Environmental Studies. This semester, I had the opportunity to intern with The Nature Conservancy at Nags Head Woods. I had the pleasure of working alongside Aaron McCall, the head steward at Nags Head Woods who is in charge of the daily operations and maintenance of the woods. 

Before beginning the internship, we went on a class trip to Nags Head Woods and we were given a tour by Aaron. I was amazed by how different the forest was compared to the forests we had back home. I was a little nervous about starting the internship, but I was also excited to get to learn about this different environment and I was ready to help contribute to a project in hopes of learning some new skills that would be valuable once I graduated. 

If you enjoy working outdoors, look no further! I would begin my days by meeting with Aaron and figuring out the agenda for the day. I would then head off into the woods on my own or sometimes accompanied by Aaron depending on what tasks needed to be completed that day. For the most part, my internship consisted of doing trail maintenance and helping to maintain the preserve. Being in such a large forest, there was always something to do. Some of the tasks I would do consisted of weed whacking the vegetation growing onto the trails, trimming obtrusive trees and branches, raking the trails so that they are clear to visitors, blowing the trails clear, identifying and removing invasive plant species, repairing the boardwalk and any other general stewardship duties that would arise. 

I also had the opportunity of improving my GIS skills by creating a map for the preserve. I was asked to make a map of Nags Head Woods that included all of the controlled burn sites, fuel breaks, and trails. This map will have future use by Nags Head Woods in the planning of any future prescribed fires. Although my GIS knowledge was limited, I had the opportunity to improve my problem-solving and GIS skills and I was able to create this map. It was rewarding to create a finished product that might be of some future use.

Burn Site map of NHW.

My favorite part of my internship was getting the chance to walk all the trails and becoming familiar with Nags Head Woods. My favorite trail to walk was the Roanoke trail because it would take you all the way to the Sound and you could sit there and relax and forget about your problems for a moment while you admire the beauty of the Roanoke Sound. I also loved getting to see all the different wildlife that I would encounter as I walked through the woods. I got to see snakes, frogs, squirrels, turtles, fish, and so many beautiful birds that came to nest in Nags Head Woods or were just stopping by. 

Frog from Nags Head Woods


Hiking Blue Berry Trail.

Interning at The Nature Conservancy was a unique experience that gave me the opportunity to learn more about the maritime forest ecosystems and to feel more connected with nature. If you need some peace and quiet, this is the internship for you!

Interning at the Town of Nags Head Planning Department (a legal perspective)

About Me

I am a sophomore and an Environmental Studies major with a History minor. I would like to continue on to Law School and wanted an internship that exposed me to legal issues. I have also considered getting a Master’s in Public Administration at UNC, so interning with local government was complimentary to this.

My Project

Nags Head

Steve and I shared an internship and a project. We were tasked with making a comprehensive toolkit for the Town’s upcoming living shoreline project; this included a legal and literature review, conducting interviews, and exploring possible grant opportunities. The goal of a living shoreline is to stabilize and protect the coast using natural materials. Often, the project goal is to restore native vegetation along the coastline. Vegetation helps stabilize the shoreline by securing sediments with their roots. This stabilization is vital in protecting the coast from erosion, which was the primary concern of the Town. Other benefits of living shorelines are increased carbon storage, improved water quality, providing habitat for wildlife, and buffering flooding and storm surges. In this case, the proposed living shoreline is to be implemented on the estuarine side of Nags Head. The Town had received a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, enabling the Town to hire a consultant. While the consultant was going to concentrate on the ecology of the living shoreline, Steve and I tried to contribute to the project by examining possible obstacles. A majority of the estuarine side is comprised of private property, meaning the Town needed permission to access this area and to construct the living shoreline. Permission for the construction and maintenance of the living shoreline could be obtained through easements. Easements are a legal agreement giving another party permission to use the property owner’s land in a way that they would not otherwise have the right to do. Obtaining an easement requires knowledge of stakeholder perception regarding the project. Through interviews with nearby towns (Kitty Hawk and Duck) that had completed a similar living shoreline project, Steve and I gained a better understanding of public opinion. We also conducted interviews with legal professionals to gain better insight into what rights the Town had as well as what the easements would need to express. We did the same with grants, getting people with plenty of experience to give us insight. Steve and I compiled all the information we had gathered doing research and interviewing people and formatted it into an interactive toolkit. The Town and consultant will use this toolkit as they formalize plans for the living shoreline. 

My Experiences

Interviewing Law professors: Joe Kalo and Donald Hornstein

For a wanna-be lawyer, speaking with lawyers as well respected and experienced as Joe Kalo and Donald Hornstein was a dream come true. Joe Kalo is a former professor at UNC-CH and is cited in numerous publications. Joe was super fun to talk to, especially about property law and riparian rights. Our law and policy class this semester, taught by another outstanding lawyer, Lee Leidy, had prepared us well for our talk with Joe. He knew case law and asked great questions that made us think about our understanding of riparian rights. Donald Hornstein is a current professor at UNC-CH who specializes in insurance law. Dr. Hornstein again asked great questions and talked with us about easements. He brought up concerns that property owners might have as well as concerns the Town might have. I look forward to taking his ENEC 350 class next semester. I loved getting to talk with practicing lawyers and see if my interpretations were consistent with theirs. 

Speaking with Joe Heard of the Town of Duck

This is Duck’s Boardwalk, and the marsh used to be in line with it. Erosion has brought the marsh behind the boardwalk.

Getting to speak with Joe Heard from the Town of Duck was a treat. Duck is such a cute town that is very walkable. This is in part to their boardwalk, which Nags Head is also considering implementing. Duck had completed their planning process for a living shoreline project and received numerous grants to get the project started. Joe was instrumental in articulating how a project like this comes to fruition. He was so nice and eager to help; it was great getting to know him.

Going out into the field with Kate 

Kate is the environmental planner at the Town and my mentor! Part of her job is to monitor stormwater quality and implement regulations. Kate took Steve and me to a water quality test site, where we got to help collect the water sample and bottle it for the lab. We also got to do a site visit with her at a proposed construction site. We noticed that the house next to the site had flattened its swales, otherwise known as dunes. Steve and I loved witnessing the finding of a violation firsthand.

View during the drive home

Favorite Moments

Steve brought boiled potatoes and mayonnaise for lunch, and everyone thought he was malnourished; he is not. My next favorite was people bringing their dogs into the office.

I dropped an entire new box of snacks


We met Josie and Bo, both of whom were super sweet. During our breaks, Steve and I would go for walks along the beach right across from town hall. It was nice to be outside and watch Steve chase birds. After a long day of work, I would roll down the windows and blare music on the drive back to the guest house. Blaring Adele, Beyonce, and Taylor Swift was a cathartic experience; Steve was vibing.


Steve chasing birds on a beach walk


My time at the Nags Head Planning Department allowed me to make valuable connections. I really enjoyed all of the interviews we did, getting to know such amazing people. I also got to see what it takes to run a local government. Everyone at the Town was so kind and willing to work with us. Working within local government is an underpaid and understaffed endeavor. The people that dedicate their time to improving the lives of the residents are so special and are often not thanked for their efforts or underappreciated. I want to call attention to some of these people: Kate Jones, Holly White, Kelley Wyatt, Kylie Shepard, Margaux Kerr, Lily Campos Nieberding, Ed Snyder, Steve Szymanski, Cory Tate, Kim Thompson, Shannon Krzyzanowski, Bobbisue Louvros, Andy Garman. These are just a handful of people I had the privilege to interact with during my time with the Town. I had a lot of fun this semester and value the experience I gained. 



Interning with the NC Coastal Federation

Hello, I’m Blakely Durham, a current sophomore majoring in Environmental Studies. This semester I had the privilege of interning for the North Carolina Coastal Federation in Wanchese. The Coastal Fed works to protect coastal waters and habitats along the NC coast. 

Throughout my internship, I had the opportunity to tag along with Coastal Fed staff to learn about some of their ongoing work. My first opportunity to do so was with my mentor Michael Flynn during the Coastal Fed’s Abandoned and Derelict Vessel (ADV) Removal project. I was especially intrigued by this project because during my short time in the Outer Banks I couldn’t help but notice the two sailboats stranded by the shore near the Washington Baum Bridge. Initially I thought they were just anchored there for the day, but I learned they were actually stuck and abandoned by their owners. For this project, I got to spend the whole day on the water, which was very refreshing. Throughout the boat ride, I learned more specifics of the project, like how the Coastal Fed contracted people to do the work, the guidelines for removal, and all the grants and permitting that allowed the ADV removal to occur. During this whole day, however, only one boat was removed, and it was “an easy one.” So when my mentor asked me to join him for a second day on the water, I respectfully declined. 

Another project I learned about was the Lake Mattamuskeet Watershed Restoration project. Lake Mattamuskeet was the largest naturally formed lake in North Carolina, but so much human modification occurred that it is no longer considered a natural lake. A number of canals were dug to move water, and the lake was even split in two by a highway, creating an East and West basin with little water exchange. Toxic algal blooms occur throughout, and residents must consistently pump water to avoid flooding of their lands. All and all, it’s a very bad situation. I attended a stakeholder and public meeting with my mentor in Swan Quarter to meet the people involved with the proposed management plan and hear concerns from citizens. It was definitely a very informative experience, as I got to see how various stakeholders with different concerns interacted while all working towards the same end goal. 

Mattamuskeet Lodge, a historic pumping station

My final “field trip” was to First Flight Middle School with Sara Hallas, the Coastal Fed’s education coordinator, to teach 6th graders about the rain garden in front of their school. For the first activity, we assigned each group of kids a specific plant to find using a handy-dandy sheet with pictures of all the plants in the rain garden. The second activity of the rain garden lesson was “stewardship.” For this activity, we gave each group of kids specific instructions to care for their assigned plant. They attacked their tasks with lots of enthusiasm, sometimes perhaps a little too much. I enjoyed this chance to be outside and work with kids again. It was also heart-warming to watch some of the kids who were so eager to learn and help out.

While these specific projects allowed me to get a more well-rounded view of the Coastal Fed’s work, the majority of my work surrounded offshore wind in NC. Currently there are two offshore wind projects proposed off the coast of NC. One in Kitty Hawk has already been leased and is in the prospecting phase. The other in Wilmington is still in the leasing phase. Though offshore wind has major benefits, namely providing a source of renewable energy, its presence in the marine environment can have a variety of other impacts. My job was to write a paper detailing the impacts of the installation of offshore wind farms off of NC’s coast. This involved a lot of research, reading up on all the potential economic and environmental impacts as well as public perception of offshore wind. I was unaware of offshore wind’s impacts or specific projects in NC before, so I learned a lot during this process. For this project I most enjoyed reading the studies on the public’s opinions on offshore wind and what informs these opinions.

This project also allowed me to learn more about the process to actually get to installation. There is a lot of back and forth, with drafts released for public comment, then revised and re-released for almost every step in the process. And so many acronyms: WEAs (wind energy area), EAs (environmental assessment), PSNs (proposed sale notice), NOIs (notice of intent), and EISs (environmental impact statement) to name a few. 

Writing the offshore wind paper, I learned a lot about offshore wind’s environmental impacts. Some of them are positive, but the majority seemed to be negative. It made me realize that no project will ever be perfect. If we want offshore wind, which we do, we need to accept that there will be some negative environmental impacts. It then becomes increasingly important to learn about those impacts, so they can be managed in a way that reduces them as much as possible. Because at the end of the day it does no one any good to be locked in a stalemate trying to find the ever-elusive “perfect” solution. So I’m glad that I got to be an even small part of this process, striving for information to reduce the impacts.

** I would consider the Coastal Fed for an internship if you don’t mind a desk job, but still want an opportunity to get out and work in the community. It is also a very small office, so you have a chance to meet everyone working there and explore different aspects of the Coastal Fed’s work. **

You Run??

Over the past three months, I have had countless fun and enjoyable experiences in the Outer Banks. It’s bittersweet knowing we only have less than a month of the semester left. Nevertheless, I have decided to write one journey that has been consistent throughout the fall semester: training for my first half marathon!

On my second day here, I decided to go on a six-mile run early in the morning. The evening before, I reunited with Steve and met Rebekah and Jane. Steve and Rebekah expressed interest in joining me on my run, which surprised me. Normally when I tell people I’m going on a run, no one really wants to join. Rebekah was the only one who actually made it on my run, since Steve was unable to force himself out of bed (which would be a common occurrence throughout the semester). This first run of the semester was hot and humid, despite it being early in the morning. However, I still had a blast running with Rebekah. She ran with me for over a mile before deciding to take a break. I ran for a little bit longer, but since I didn’t want to abandon my newly formed friend, I turned around. But when I reached her, she insisted I keep going and began to cheer me on!

I did not have a running image of Rebekah (right) and I (left) running so here’s one of us biking.

Towards the end of my run, I was surprised to see Rebekah still running along the path. I was so impressed with her since she ran/walked four miles. Her perseverance was my main motivation to my first six-miler in the Outer Banks and she gave me hope for the rest of my training!

Me running at Jennette’s Pier!




One of my favorite runs in the Outer Banks was at Jennette’s Pier. Steve, Joseph, and I decided to run by the shoreline, which would later be hazardous since my shoes became soaked. During our run, I could not help but appreciate our surroundings. The sun was beginning to set, which gave off a pink hue. The sand was left with freshly made footprints from Joseph and Steve running ahead. The waves provided a soothing sound effect. It has always been my dream to run at the beach during sunset, but never did I imagine I would enjoy it with the new friends I made at this field site. After our run, we rewarded ourselves by cooling off in the ocean, which felt rich to the touch.

My half marathon took place on Ocracoke Island, which requires a ferry ride to reach it. A group of my peers came to cheer me on, and I was thankful for their support! We booked a motel room on Ocracoke since my race started at 7 AM, which would require us to wake up bright and early. On race day, my alarm went off at 6:20 AM, and I was excited to start the day. Steve, however, was not.

Steve = not a morning person.

Anna helped me get ready, and we went to group up with Rebekah and Blakely. I began my race and Blakely, Rebekah, Steve, and Anna cheered me on. I ran four miles until I saw Kenan and Jane cheering me on at the campgrounds. Shortly after, I saw Mackenzie and Caid sprinting from the bathrooms so they could see me run by.

The next time I saw my friends was from mile eight to mile ten. Rebekah held a sign that read “Run for the Sour Patches”, Steve taunted me to get me to run faster, Blakely and Anna were at the Ocracoke lighthouse, Jane and Kenan were at the Harbor, and Mackenzie and Caid cheered me on by a restaurant. At the end of the race, everyone was so excited for me; I, however, was dead and immediately looked for a chair to collapse in.

I am grateful for everyone who came out to cheer for me, both in-person and spiritually. I would not have been able to accomplish this goal without everyone at my field site. They helped me keep a great mindset by supporting and hyping me up for my runs. A special shoutout to the people who ran with me over the semester while I was training: Jason, Steve, Rebekah, and Joseph. Another shoutout to the people who came to support me at Ocracoke: Rebekah, Jane, Steve, Blakely, Anna, Mackenzie, Kenan, and Caid. For anyone reading this, make sure to go on adventures and to events with your peers. They might become some of the people you appreciate the most!

Top left to right (Mackenzie, Steve, Rebekah, Blakely, Caid, Anna). Bottom left (Harris), bottom right (Nathalie).

—Nathalie, OBXFS 21

My Project with Paul at CSI:

Hello, my name is Jason Reynolds and I’m a sophomore studying environmental science (at UNC)! I’ve had many opportunities to learn new things this semester at the OBX Field Site and my internship was certainly one of them. This semester, I worked with Paul Paris, a research scientist at the Coastal Studies Institute who works in the coastal marine processes and geomorphology lab. While there were some minor bumps along the way, overall, I enjoyed the work I completed with Paul and can say I learned some new things. 

At the start of my internship, I remember being a bit nervous because I wasn’t exactly sure of what I would be working on. I had been informed of a few potential projects I could pursue with Paul but didn’t have a clear choice. After some discussion, we settled on a fun and interesting project in which we used Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) data and GRASS GIS to analyze changes to marshes on nearby Pea Island. From working on the project, I refined my skills in completing research and gained valuable exposure to geographic information system (GIS) software. I’ll now give a brief rundown of the project. 

Lidar is a sensing method that uses a laser to collect elevation data remotely, such as from an aircraft. While it can be quite accurate in most environments, in densely vegetated marsh ecosystems the laser typically returns higher-than-actual elevation values. We collected lidar datasets and brought them into GRASS GIS to complete some corrections, based on other research I had completed. Once this was complete, we used aerial photography to mask our data and only leave behind what we thought to be marsh. We completed some calculations based on what was left, ultimately creating a map that showed the change in elevation of an area of marsh between 2008 and 2018 (to our best estimate). 

(Above) The infrared band of aerial imagery of our study site from 2008!

(Above) The map created by subtracting elevation values from 2018 and 2008. Red pixels indicate areas where elevation has increased, and accretion has occurred. We attribute the widespread accretion to the inlet that opened in this area as a result of Hurricane Irene in 2011!

While this internship was perhaps less adventurous than others, it provided a great balance to the fieldwork and other demanding activities during the semester. Also, being a relatively short trip (CSI to my residence for the semester), it provided me with some helpful flexibility and left room for independent work. In addition, I know that I am coming away with a number of new skills. I gained experience in following the process of a semi-formal research project, as well as in the creation of a formal report summary. The demand for research required me to improve my abilities in completing a literature review, which will be of high value to me in the future. I also gained some good exposure to GIS software, which is a large part of much work in my field of study. These skills will be of great value to my future studies!

Overall, the internship was definitely a more enjoyable part of my semester. I enjoyed working with Paul, and certainly encourage anyone who has an interest in completing some research of their own to ask about working with one of the excellent staff at CSI. And to any prospective students: in any internship at the OBXFS, make the most of it and use your voice to create a project and experience you will look back on and value. Best!

– Jason

Interning with the National Park Service

Working with the National Park Service has been a fantastic experience I won’t forget. During this internship experience, I was able to get first-hand experience of coastal field work projects, including sea turtle nesting, bird surveys, and marine necropsy. I also gained insightful experience from GIS and cultural resource management projects associated with the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the Lost Colony site.

This internship provided many interesting activities and opportunities; however, my favorite project was working with sea turtle nests around the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. While waking up at 5 or 6 in the morning doesn’t sound like a fun task, the opportunity to regularly encounter sea turtle hatchlings during sunrise is definitely worth the early start. This section of my internship involved us driving across the beach around Hatteras Island, looking for sea turtle tracks and disturbances to nesting sites while performing expansions or excavations on the nesting sites. 

These excavations were always the best part, where, 3 days after hatching, we would dig up the nest and count the eggshells while finding hatchling stragglers. We would usually then release the hatchlings that morning or wait until the evening and watch them crawl toward their future in the ocean. 

Since the sea turtle nesting season ends in the fall, we spent the rest of our time in the field working on bird surveys and marine necropsy. While I won’t go into the specifics of our necropsy activities, I enjoyed being able to examine and pick apart large marine species that I have never been able to interact with up close. Working on bird surveys throughout this semester has slowly turned me into an avid birder. My favorite bird to encounter is the magnificent American oystercatcher. 

My mentor, Paul Doshkov surveying a protected area of the Bodie Island spit for sightings of threatened/endangered bird species

Excavating a nest while counting and examining the eggs and looking for straggler hatchlings








Not only were my internship activities fun and interesting, but my mentors were too. I give special thanks to Lindsay, Michael, Kegan, and Paul, who made my internship something to look forward to throughout the week. Interning with the National Park is a perfect way to gain hands-on field work experience while learning about conservation and management efforts in beautiful locations. In my opinion, my internship was the best out of our field group.

Fin Whale washed up on the northern tip of Pea Island


The American oystercatcher captured through a sighting scope

History: Interning at Island Farm

Hi all! My name is Nathalie Uriarte-Ayala and this fall 2021, I had the opportunity to intern with Island Farm. Before my first day at Island Farm, I remember running past the farm and remarking the picturesque and quaint atmosphere it had. I was excited and nervous to start my internship, but I was more hopeful that it would be a fun and exciting internship. On my first day, I was greeted by the farm’s cat, Alfie. He made his presence known by meowing loudly and following Michelle Clower, my mentor, at any step she took.

Alfie attempting to lay on my work!
Alfie attempting to lay on my work!

Island Farm is not only a farm but a living history site that retells the past of the Etheridge family. The homestead contains the homeplace, the cookhouse, and the slave’s quarter. Each site has its interpreters that tell the history from the 1850s to the visitors. My main role on Island farm was to record the history interpreters tell visitors and to organize the interpretive manual. The interpretive manual contains all the history of the homestead, but it was not organized for each site.

The Homestead.

One of my favorite activities during my internship was during the pumpkin patch which Island Farm host every year. It occurs every Saturday throughout October, and it has a range of activities, vendors, and pumpkins available. A group of my classmates came to visit, and we checked out the different vendors. There were so many great items on sale, I was tempted to buy something from every vendor. However, I stayed strong and only bought some rock earrings that Anna helped me choose. Then we visited the candle-making station where an interpreter was burning wax in a fire pit. He explained to us how to make a candle and gave each of us a string. We had to dip the string into the wax and then allow it cool by walking around the fire pit. We did this twelve times and each of us had a unique shaped candle by the end of it. My classmates ended their trip by going to the pumpkin patch and choosing their pumpkins!

Rebekah (left) and Jane (right) choosing their pumpkins at pumpkin patch!

During my internship at Island Farm, I learned the history of the Etheridge family and the hardships islanders endured during the 1850s. I also had the chance to learn more about gardening techniques when working alongside Gabe, the farmer. He is very knowledgeable on the subject and is always providing a hand anywhere on the homestead. This past Monday, I had the chance to help him harvest Hayman sweet potatoes, although I was not much help since I had sprained my wrist the week before. Nonetheless, I helped him by pulling the cover crop out and raking anywhere I could.

Island Farm was a unique experience and allowed me the opportunity to learn more about the history of Roanoke Island and its gardening techniques.

— Nathalie, OBXFS 21