Interning for the Pea Island Preservation Society

My Internship with the Pea Island Preservation Society!

Hello, My name is Francesca Fradianni, and I am a senior graduating this December! This semester, I’ve had the privilege of working with the Pea Island Preservation Society, a non-profit devoted to telling the story of the Pea Island lifesavers. Situated in Manteo, the original cookhouse has just two rooms, yet contains enough history to fill an entire museum. The Pea Island Station was the first and only life-saving station to have an all-black crew, when race relations in the south were a tumultuous and tempestuous issue. Through reconstruction and Jim Crow, this station thrived and worked to gain a name for itself, and saved people and cargo from the treacherous Graveyard of the Atlantic.

My role as an intern was to create content and infographics for the Pea Island Preservation Society. I researched various books, archives, and museums about the Pea Island station, and produced two infographics — One about Richard Etheridge (the first black keeper), and one about environmental issues that determined the livelihood and duties of the Pea Island lifesavers. I also produced a poster and other media for the 125th anniversary of the most famous rescue by Pea Island — The E.S. Newman. I really appreciated being able to have a creative outlet during this science-oriented semester, and I ended up being able to use all of the projects in my portfolio for both grad school and job applications!

The poster I made for the 125th anniversary event for the E.S. Newman posted in downtown Manteo!

The team at PIPS is small, but extremely effective. My mentor and the director of the Pea Island Preservation society, Joan Collins, has been one of the nicest and most welcoming people I’ve ever met. Since the very first day, she treated me with respect and made me feel like an important part of the team, and was integral to developing the content for the posters and infographics. Doug Stover is an incredible individual with astounding humor and humility who has helped immensely in my research of the history of the Pea Island Station. Coquetta Brooks is one of the coolest and brightest people I know, and has never been anything but extremely kind and supportive to me. Darrell Collins has been integral in checking my work for historical accuracy, and just like everyone else, has been a truly pleasant person to know. While these individuals had the greatest impact on my time as an intern, there are many other unsung heroes that contribute to the success of the Pea Island Preservation Society.

Doug, Joan, and Myself at the top of the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station tower!


My time interning for Pea Island has been very rewarding and wholesome, and I’m very proud to have been able to contribute to an organization with such a focused and genuine mission in my final semester at UNC. Everyone involved does their work from the passion in the hearts, and they are deserving of all possible recognition and respect. If you want your internship experience to be close-knit, focused, and humanities-based, working with the Pea Island Preservation society could be for you!

– Francesca

Sitting on the steps of the lovely Pea Island Cookhouse Museum!

OBX Management and Field Work: Interning with the North Carolina Coastal Reserve

Hello! My name is Jane Bailey and I’m a senior studying Chemistry and Environmental Science. The OBXFS ‘21 session is my second to last undergraduate semester and I am excited to share my internship experience! The internship portion of the OBXFS was hands down one of my favorite elements of the semester. From hands-on experience in the marshes of Currituck Banks to productive days addressing resource and community management at the Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters, my internship has helped develop my career skill sets for my future goals in academia and research. 

For my position, I knew that I wanted to gain more experience with field work; I love being outside and doing hands-on research, just like our capstone work! Learning field research methodologies are critical to environmental science research and I wanted to capitalize on this while at the field site. Luckily, Linda D’Anna paired me with Erik Alnes, the Northern Sites Field Manager, of the North Carolina Coastal Reserve. 

Erik is an amazing internship supervisor; he is extremely knowledgeable, hands on, down to earth, and very passionate about his work. Once we got together for our initial conversation about goals and expectations, he introduced me to the project we would be working on. In the Outer Banks, there are several designated conservation areas that are managed by the Coastal Reserve for research and resource preservation. One of these is Currituck Banks which is in the northern portion of the OBX. The proposed project was a survey of sub aquatic vegetation (SAV) within the sound and marsh systems of the bay; a novel survey which had never been conducted before! I was excited to be a spear header on this project as SAV ecosystems are critical habitat for fish nurseries, food systems for migrating bird species, and are for water filtration within the estuaries. For the survey, we would go out into the estuary, observing SAV species diversity, community composition, and depth at which the species could be found on a series of pre-mapped transects stretching out into the bay. From there, we would map the data found during the surveys and analyze if any trends emerged in terms of species composition and depth profiles where the communities were growing. 

What a great project to be working on!! I was excited to be contributing to a wider array of scientific knowledge and further outlining the natural resources that existed within Currituck Banks. One of our goals for the future was to make this survey an annual process to temporally and spatially map SAV species throughout Currituck, which would be made possible if the first survey was a success. So I said to Erik, “Let’s do it!”

Our survey day was, in total transparency, one of my favorite days at the OBX. Getting to spend my day, knee high in the sound, under the sky on a beautiful afternoon was everything I pictured when I told myself that I wanted to become an ecologist. The pine forests with live oak understories, sandy wading inlet, and marsh surrounding us during the survey was an absolutely gorgeous setting for a research day. During the survey, we were also met by two other individuals from the Coastal Reserve that wanted to be involved with the data collection, as well as an individual from the United States Geological Survey who wanted to learn about our methodology and survey tactics. It was great getting to meet other individuals in my field of study and discuss our areas of focus, all while wading around in the middle of the sound!

A gorgeous day for field work! Erik is waay off to the right, measuring the distance between each of our plots. We pounded PVC into the sand bottom so that the survey locations could be used for future studies!
Erik (middle) and I (right) sort through a clump of hand sampled SAV to determine species composition within the plot.

Digging into the meat of the survey, we snorkeled to count species area cover within our plots and community composition of our transects; we identified eight species of SAV within the sound with our most prevalent species being native celery grass, compromising 55% of the SAV species we observed. After moving through transects A-C, we had spent the better part of the day in the water and were ready to head back to base, exhausted but excited to have collected our data. Throughout the subsequent days, Erik and I proceeded to ID any unknown species, updated our SAV Easy ID pamphlet, updated the methodology report for the SAV survey, and plotted our data on ArcGIS to better visualize our findings. From start to finish, this was a great project that I loved to have contributed to. From being outdoors, to analyzing findings, and coming up with great visuals to better represent the SAV species of the sound, I loved doing this type of research!

A page from our “Quick SAV ID Guide” that Erik made to help with field ID. Super helpful!
ArcGIS map of transects A, B, and C, as well as the plot locations that we surveyed.

In addition to the main project, Erik taught me about reserve management, aspects of trail maintenance, community interaction (lovingly termed “PR”), and other odds and ends that were in a day in the life of a Norther Sites Manager. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my work with the Coastal Reserve and the experiences I gained there helped me learn which pathways I’d like to pursue in the future, along with additional skill sets to achieve those goals. If I’d have to give a piece of advice to anyone searching for their internship at the moment, I’d say that this experience is critical to learning what you want to do just as much as what you don’t. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, our mentors are here to help us, and you get as much out of the internship as you put in. Make it yours! 

**If you are interested in resource management, community stakeholder engagement, a balance between office and field work, a dynamic and engaging work environment, and an internship focused around the outdoors, keep the Coastal Reserve in mind!**

— Jane Bailey, OBXFS 21

A Student’s Guide to the OBX

A Student’s Guide to the OBX

It is nearly impossible to write about just one single day or experience that I’ve had in the last three months living here in the Outer Banks. Since my arrival in Manteo, there have been many moments with my peers that I have committed to my memory, so I’ve decided to write about the ones that stand out the most to me. Here is a guide to memorable things you can do as a student in the outer banks field site!

A view of the sound at Pea Island Wildlife refuge. Salt marshes are one of my favorite ecosystems!

Go to the beach!

The first thing we did as a group was going to the beach after class on FDOC. We swam, sat on blankets and played cards, until the sun started going down. Jennette’s Pier is my favorite beach spot, where the sunset gives some of the most beautiful light on the pier pilings and shines through the waves. You can play Kadima, cards, or read and listen to music on warm summer evenings with the waves crashing in the background, surrounded by your friends.

Jennette’s Pier during golden hour!
Nathalie and Steve playing Kadima on the beach. It was a privilege to watch such athleticism!

Pick up bugs!

One of my favorite things to do during the break in between classes is to find all the cool bugs that reside around CSI!

We have a plethora of mantises, cicadas, locusts, and cool spiders! As long as you are careful and gentle, they won’t hurt you, and they make for such cute little friends! My personal favorite were the praying mantises, as they will walk across your hands and up your arms, or rest on your head!

Praying mantis hitching a ride on Kenan’s hat!
Mackenzie holding a praying mantis on campus!

Go stargazing and catch ghost crabs!

One of the most amazing things about the Outer Banks is the night sky. At Coquina beach, about 15 miles south of Jennette’s, you get some pretty dark night skies with the milky way visible! I loved putting down blankets and laying on our backs watching for shooting stars as they fly by. If you’re lucky, you will see thousands of ghost crabs covering the shoreline, and if your friends are really cool, they will teach you how to catch them!

Rebekah managed to catch two ghost crabs unassisted!

Have fun on field trips!

Take advantage of the interesting and unique field trips the field site will offer! We got to explore the entirety of Hatteras Island by going to different museums, checking out wildlife, and eating yummy food! We also got to conduct research down in Buxton, which was a really cool experience. Exploring Duck and Corolla was my favorite field trip. We got an in-depth tour of the town and went to museums and the Currituck lighthouse!  Afterward we kayaked through the marshes, watched wild horses from the back of a truck, and ate some really good pizza.

Steve and Joseph taking a nice relaxing paddle in Corolla.
Jason, Blakely, Steve, Nathalie, Cathy, Jane, and Rebekah all suited up to traverse our maritime forest, Buxton Woods!

Do something fun for fall break!

Most of us ended up camping at Jane’s farm in Maryland for fall break, a lovely retreat from the hustle and bustle of school and beach. We were able to go to D.C and visit lots of museums and eat delicious food! We had lovely fireside chats every night, and had fun with archery, crabbing, petting farm animals, and various other ventures.

Jane taking us for a joy ride in the Gator!
Anna holding a blue crab that we caught in a crab pot on the Potomac River!

Participate in spooky season!

We went to Island Farm and picked out our pumpkins for carving! We carved our pumpkins all together on the porch and it was really fun to see everyone’s creativity take form through their jack o’ lanterns! Wanchese woods –a haunted trail in the forest of East Lake– was another fun and spooky activity! We went in small groups, where Steve and Joseph showed us their vulnerable sides as they screamed throughout the horrifying maze. We watched several scary movies in the month of October, and finished on a high note by watching The Shining in our costumes on halloween night.

Blakely, Anna, and Nathalie with their prized pumpkins at Island Farm!
Joseph posing for a snap with his new friend, nightmare jester!

Visit Ocracoke!

This past Friday, we had a field trip to Ocracoke Island! We piled into the van at 7 am and headed down to Hatteras to board the ferry. It turned out there was a nasty Nor’easter in town, and the ferries for the weekend were all cancelled, so getting there was the easy part but the prospect of getting back out that evening was unknown. We decided that Eduardo’s, a delicious Mexican food truck, was worth the risk of getting stranded on an island for the weekend. Despite some gnarly waves and gale-force winds, we saw dolphins swimming and jumping  out of the water directly in front of us at the bow of the ferry, making it all worth the while.

A very poor photograph of a bottlenose dolphin swimming in front of the ferry to Ocracoke!
Rebekah soaking up the sun and letting the wind flow through her hair on the ferry!

Make new friends!

The people are by far the best part of living in the Outer Banks for the semester. I had some doubts about moving to a new place to live with a bunch of strangers, but it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Every single person here has something special to offer, and each has their own set of unique qualities that are well worth getting to know. As soon as I got here, I was sad that I would have to leave at some point, but I am going to cherish this place and the people I am fortunate enough to call my friends until I have to go.

Kenan, Anna, Nathalie, and Rebekah climbing a large live oak tree in Corolla!
Jane wrangled a locust in the tall grasses of CSI!
Jane and Anna shaping up Steve’s luxurious locks!


My favorite part of the Outer Banks Field Site is the people. At the guest house, there is always something to do and always someone to do it with. Any event can be turned into a fun experience. For example, one Tuesday night, I was upstairs along with some of my best-est friends, watching a movie. Some of my other classmates were downstairs, cooking dinner. Then our relaxing evening was suddenly interrupted by a blaring alarm. Everyone in the house was just confused. There was no smell of smoke in the air and there were no flames to be seen. Those of us watching a movie wandered down the stairs to see if something had happened in the kitchen. All we found were people just as confused as we were. Our RA, Rachel, told us to go wait outside until we could figure out if there was truly any danger. So onto the porch, we migrated. One of my classmates, Steve, sat on the porch, still cooking his instant noodles.

Steve and his noodles

Another resident of the house came running out, wrapped in a towel and another towel in her hair. As you can imagine, she was thrilled. There was no sense of panic at all, just annoyance and confusion. Right at this moment, our classmate Kenan pulls into the midst of all this chaos. Confused, he joins the group in waiting for something to happen. Eventually, the firemen arrived. One had arrived before the engines and had gone into the house to detect smoke. Before he entered the house, he asked us to go stand far away, so we went and stood in the dark corner of the parking lot. When he exited the house, back up had arrived. Two fire engines and a whole fleet of police cars blocked off the intersection. He told them that he did detect smoke, so the firemen began to suit up. All of us just stood in the parking lot in disbelief. Steve ate his noodles. Another classmate and resident, Mackenzie and Caid, continued to eat their meal. Another resident sat down and took a nap. The rest of us looked on, waiting to see the house engulfed in flames. Thankfully that never happened; to pass the time we began to play Among Us. Eventually, the firemen arrived at the same conclusion we had: there was no emergency. Come to find out, the fire alarm was triggered by meatballs. As inconvenient as this situation was, cracking jokes and playing games made it seem like another regular night. 

Another example was our fall break. For our fall break, we decided to drive up to Washington D.C.

Blakely and Nathalie taking a picture of me on our way to D.C.

One of our classmates, Jane, and her family were nice enough to host us on their farm in Maryland. It was truly beautiful; we got to feed horses, ride around in a gator, and camp out. One of the days, a smaller group of us decided to head into the city. We drove to the train station and rode the metro in. There we spent the whole day exploring D.C. with its many museums and sites. After an amazing Italian dinner, we decided to explore the city at night. Nathalie, Joseph, and I rented scooters while Steve and Blakely took a relaxing stroll towards the Washington Monument. The city had become quiet in the night. The monuments were illuminated and the moon was shining bright; it was truly beautiful. It was a perfect night and the reflecting pool proved to be the perfect place to ride scooters. Since it was a long straight line, you could push the scooter to its max without having to be worried about being hit by a car. We weaved in and out of people, racing from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. It was a blast and a night that I will remember. 


The Washington Monument

More recently, it was Halloween. Of course, we carved pumpkins. It was so fun to sit around, listen to Halloween music, and see what people decided to carve. Some went the creative route while others were more traditional. One of my favorites was my classmate Rebekah’s pumpkin. She took an out-of-this-world approach, making her pumpkin extraterrestrial.

Rebekah’s Pumpkin

Another one of my favorites was Jason’s. His pumpkin was so wholesome, embodying the spirit of fall. Joseph’s pumpkin deserves an honorable mention since this was his first time carving a Jack O’ Lantern. It was hard to believe that he had never carved a pumpkin before, but he took to it quickly. Halloween night a group of us watched the Shining. It was Blakely’s (who was Monica from Friends) and my (who was Rachel from Friends) first time watching the Shining, but Fran (who was a chef), Nathalie (who was Steve), and Kenan (who was Cheech) were there to enjoy our gasps of surprise and shock. After the movie, we talked about our favorite parts and other scary movies we love.

Joseph and his pumpkin

I guess the point I am trying to make with all these anecdotes is that it is the people that make these experiences so memorable. I have experienced a fire drill before, but not while wearing flame socks with Steve eating noodles. I have been to D.C. before, but never with friends and never having ridden a scooter around the capital’s monuments. And for Halloween, I have carved a pumpkin before, but only ever with my family. Each person here has changed my life, and that includes my professors, the people I have met at my internship, and all the random people I have met at the guest house. If you decide to experience the field site, the friends you make will change your life for the better. 

(left to right) Kenan, Steve, Nathalie, Fran, Jane, Blakely, Joseph in D.C.