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

An Internship on the Water: My Experience with OBX Center for Dolphin Research

Growing up on the Outer Banks, I spent every summer on the beach watching the dolphins pass by every once and a while. Sometimes if we were lucky, we could watch them ride the waves or playfully splash in the distance. I always loved watching them, but I never really knew much about them or even thought of them inhabiting any other place than the ocean. Early this semester as I looked through past internships to decide what I would like doing for the next few months, an opportunity with the Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research really stood out to me. I knew that I wanted to do something involving research or field work, preferably something where I could be outdoors. The start of the semester was filled with uncertainty and new challenges for all of us. We really had no idea what to expect from our internships due to COVID, but luckily I was able to have a safe, hands-on experience while many others had to do everything remotely.

This semester, I worked alongside Jessica Taylor—the executive director of OBXCDR. When the weather was suitable on the weekends (which unfortunately was not very often), I was given the opportunity to join her on boat surveys on the Roanoke Sound to locate and photograph bottlenose dolphins. On the surveys, I was the designated data-recorder while Jess would photograph their dorsal fins. I would write down observations and details about the dolphin sightings including group size, observed activity of the dolphins, and weather conditions. We also took water quality measurements such as water temperature and salinity in certain locations along the route and during sightings. On my first survey, I learned that each dolphin has a unique dorsal fin that makes them recognizable. When Jess started to refer to them by name as soon as she saw them, I was shocked. It fascinated me that these dolphins were so well-known and frequently sighted in the area, and knowing many of them had names made me feel more connected to them.

Also, on the first survey I went on, as we were stopped at one location to take water measurements, an 80-foot yacht casually cruised by us. As it continued ahead of us, we read “Catch 23” written across the back, and quickly realized it was Michael Jordan’s fishing boat. Sadly, we did not see him on it, but I like to think that he was inside observing our dolphin research.

(Since I was busy recording data during sightings, I unfortunately did not think to take my own pictures of the dolphins, but I do have a picture on the boat with Jess’s puppy Lulu in her fancy lifejacket.)

My semester-long project for my internship was to compare a set of frequently-sighted dolphins in the Roanoke Sound to an online catalog of dorsal fin photos from Beaufort, NC. The goal of this project was to update a previous comparison done in 2016 and have a better understanding of the travel patterns of bottlenose dolphin stocks in order to better manage and protect their populations. I used the Mid-Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Catalog that includes various photo catalogs from different locations across the coast. The process of comparing the Outer Banks and Beaufort catalogs was very time-consuming and involved scrolling through thousands of photos of dorsal fins, all with slightly unique characteristics. Although it did take a lot of time, it felt like a fun puzzle trying to find matching fins. I ended up finding four matches from my sample of 25. It was a very interesting project for me, and I am very glad I was able to go on the surveys in person to see the actual photographing process as well.

Although I may not end up working specifically with dolphins in the future, this internship did give me great exposure to research experience and validated my interest in doing research and field work in my future career. Jess was a fantastic mentor and gave me opportunities to continue working and volunteering with them after my internship is over. For anyone in future field sites who has an interest in marine biology or research in general, this is a great experience, especially if you like being on the water.

– Emma Bancroft, UNC Class of 2022

Yeehaw: My Experience Interning with Island Farm

On my first day at Island Farm, I had no idea what to expect. I am a junior majoring in Environmental Science and Geography, with varied passions. My interests are in fashion, sustainability, and agriculture- and I hoped that I would be able to learn more about at least some of these during my internship. This past semester I have been able to explore these interests and more during my time at the Island Farm under Ann Daisey. My role as an intern was to help with archiving and record keeping, community engagement, assist with daily tasks, and gain a holistic understanding of Island Farm and history on Roanoke Island.


Island Farm is a real living history farm recreating life from the 1800s in Roanoke Island. This is done through interpreters, programming, workshops, and self guided tours at the farm. The property was restored by the Outer Banks Conservationists, and serves as a center for community engagement and provides hands-on learning. There is plenty of land, with chickens, cows, and even a windmill! 


A picture of the Etheridge house and kitchen garden at the Island Farm.

Thanks to the property being outdoors, I was able to have an in person internship experience at the farm following social distancing guidelines. Every day of my internship was different, and I never knew what to expect. Some days I would be helping with creating promotional materials for the farm, other days I would be helping in the garden. My tasks centered around helping out with activities at the farm, making engagement materials, and archiving and record keeping. 

Another activity I helped out with was the annual pumpkin patch. Every Saturday, there was a pumpkin patch where there were different vendors, activities, and of course pumpkins for sale. I helped out with the weaving station, where we upcycled fabric scraps to create a community tapestry. It was really cool to interact with all sorts of people and teach people (old and young) to weave. It was a great example of upcycling and using scraps to make something great! 

Weaving station at the annual pumpkin patch

I have learned a lot during my internship over the semester! Throughout the semester and touring the farm many times, I have learned a lot about the Etheridge family (the family owning the property Island Farm is on) and more about North Carolinian history. One aspect I have really liked was learning more about farming. I have learned about different crops native to the area and different gardening techniques. Another part of the internship I have really liked has been learning more about community engagement. It has been really interesting to see how Island Farm has stayed connected with the public despite COVID-19 restrictions through social media and socially distanced events. An example has been how members of the community have gotten seedlings of Hayman sweet potatoes, and people have interacted on social media to keep up with the growing. In addition, I have really liked creating tools such as virtual tours and scavenger bingo sheets for prospective visitors of the farm. I have liked the creativity and flexibility in my internship. 

Additionally, I have definitely learned more about what I want to do in the future. I have really enjoyed the hands-on experience I’ve had at Island Farm, and see a future in working at a nonprofit or an organization centering around sustainability and community engagement!  I also see how much I value variety in my work life, which is important as I think about what is next for me.

I am so grateful to Island Farm for an amazing internship experience and will take all the lessons I learn for my future.

-Janis Arrojado, class of 2022


GIS & Ecology Restoration

My name is Todd Davis and this is my last semester at UNC. I am graduating with a major in environmental studies and a GIS minor. Thanks to Corey Adams, I have gotten to work with the Jason Brown, the northern sites manager for the NC Division of Coastal Management. I told Corey during my internship interview that I wanted some more experience using GIS for conservation efforts. Luckily, that is exactly what I have been able to do throughout the semester. Many people may not know or are not familiar with GIS (geographical information system), so I will try my best to explain it. It is basically modern mapmaking that uses satellite images and/or any attributes that can be mapped out that can then be used to visualize and manipulate data. Most of the calculations are distance-based using GPS coordinates hence the geographic in the name.

I was tasked to use past and find my own GIS data to calculate erosion rates on the sound and ocean side of the Currituck Banks Reserve. This reserve is one of three that was managed by Jason including Buxton Woods and Kitty Hawk. Unfortunately, Jason moved jobs to Raleigh very early into my internship so I never got to meet him. However, he still helped guide me with the many GIS problems that ultimately arise with any project. I know GIS is not for everyone, but I wholeheartedly believe the common cliche that a picture is worth a thousand words. In my case, I am able to use maps to show information and data in a much more creative and intuitive way than the inferior graph.

I was able to spend a cool, windy day to visit the Currituck Banks Reserve in person.

I learned that working with a GIS system such as ArcMap uses a lot of problem-solving. Anyone who has used GIS or really any computer-based software knows that problem-solving is a very useful skill in data analysis. There were many problems that came up with using a new shoreline analysis extension that I have had no previous experience with, but my mentor Jason was always by his phone with great advice.

Jason along with my classes this semester have taught me the importance of marshes for the estuarine ecosystems. Marshes have been studied extensively and is a key wetland ecosystem because they can help grow in elevation with sea level rise, slow shoreline erosion, and improve water quality. I am glad that I was able to map erosion rates over a 10 year period for the sound and ocean (but also saddened that the whole estuarine study area in Currituck Banks is eroding).

One example of a finished map from my internship using GIS

I am very happy with my role in the internship as well as the capstone to be able to use GIS and make maps that have real world implications. Since there is no current northern sites manager, my results for the internship will be sent to the research director in Beaufort, NC. It will be used as a basis for locations of future marsh restoration projects in the Currituck Banks Reserve.

My time at the OBX and UNC as a whole is coming to an end very soon. I do not think it has hit me yet, but boy am I glad to be doing class outside every day and interning for the DCM instead of ending it with a full semester of online class. I will probably spend the rest of the night applying for more jobs in the triangle area with the help of this internship tying a perfect bow on my ecology restoration experience.

~ Todd Davis, UNC Class of 2020

OBXFS Interning at the Dare County Justice Center

My name is Caroline Pharr, I am a Senior at UNC Chapel Hill majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Public Policy. During the Fall 2020 Outer Banks Field Site I had the opportunity to work at the Dare County Justice Center, in the Assistant District Attorney’s Office in Manteo, North Carolina. My internship mentor for this semester is Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Karpowicz Bland. Assistant District Attorney Bland is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and UNC law school, and is a long term Outer Banks resident.

Caroline Pharr on the right and Assistant District Attorney Bland on the left

One of the highlights of my internship has been the opportunity to observe court. At the Dare Center I have had the opportunity to observe and assist in Superior Court.  It has been my goal to pursue a career in environmental justice, either in policy or law. Working with my internship mentor over the fall semester has shown me what a career in environmental law might look like.

In addition to working in Dare County, I had the opportunity to travel to Currituck County to observe District Court. I was able to see the difference in the Dare County and Currituck County court proceedings. On this trip to the Currituck County Justice Center, I was able to see a community with different social economic groups then that of Dare County, and how those differences affected the dynamics in court. One specific contrast was the civil violations between farmers and land owner rights.

Currituck County Justice Center

What I have learned during my internship is that North Carolina District Courts can be divided into four categories; civil, criminal, juvenile, and the magistrate. District Court civil cases involve hearings for divorces, custody over children, child support, and cases involving less than $10,000. It also deals with minor criminal cases involving misdemeanors and infractions. Whereas in contrast to District Court, proceedings in Superior Court involve all felony criminal cases and civil cases involving more than $10,000. In addition, appeals made for misdemeanor and infraction cases from District Court are also tried in Superior Court.

Another experience that has been a highlight is getting to meet the Candidate for Chief Justice of North Carolina Paul Newby.

Justice Paul Newby

This being an election year, the Dare County Justice Center was a stop for Justice Newby to meet and speak with the Dare County voters, and he toured the court house and met with those of us working at the Justice Center. I had the chance to speak with him about the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as well as how college students are adjusting to online university in the wake of COVID-19.

As someone who will be going to law school after graduation, it was very exciting to meet one of the few people whose interpretations of the law will affect the lives of the people who reside in North Carolina.


~ Caroline Pharr (Class of 2021)


Interning with Dare County’s Planning Department

Hey, everyone! 

My name is Gabriella Paone, and I am a sophomore at the Outer Banks Field Site. I am a political science major but chose to participate in the field site because of my interest in the environment. Before coming to Manteo, everyone from the field site met with Corey Adams, the internship coordinator. During my meeting, I gave Corey very little to work with as I had no idea what I wanted my internship to look like, or even who I would like to work for. I told him I was interested in public government, but that I did not have a preference to be placed anywhere. Thankfully, Corey was able to get creative and placed me with the Dare County planning department. 

One topic I was asked to research – the demographics of Dare County

I have been working with Donna Creef, who is the planning director of Dare County. The work I have been doing has been quite relevant to the things I have learned in Professor D’Anna’s class, which teaches about coastal management practices. My work over the course of the semester has been assisting Donna in updating Dare County’s land-use plan for the new zoning ordinance. Per North Carolina state laws, coastal land use plans must be updated every five years to ensure management procedures are up to date and still efficient. This allows states to develop coastal management programs and includes coastal communities within this process. Donna Creef’s job to update this plan is immensely important to ensure that development and protecting the environment is a balanced act in the Outer Banks. 

A map made using GIS, which classifies land uses

Throughout my internship, I have mostly assisted Donna with creating tables, research, and making the land-use plan overall look more presentable and easier to understand. I have written up documents for multiple sections of the land use plan including demographics, locating maps, and have become familiar with other zoning ordinances to look at similarities. Dare County also has its own “GIS guy” who I used information from to make new classifications of land uses. As a non-environment major, it was cool to see the skill be used to solve a current knowledge gap within Dare County. Although the zoning ordinance is a government document, it is important that the zoning ordinance is accessible to everyone, especially developers who need to adhere to the guidelines within. I had the chance to write up a few drafts for various sections of the land use plan and had to consider that those reading this may not know the technical terminology of planning. Coming into this internship with no prior knowledge of zoning helped me to make sure the sections I wrote were easy to understand to any audience.

I have enjoyed working under a local government department, as it allows me to learn more about the place I have lived for the past semester. While it has been a challenge to work remotely, especially with unfamiliar terminology and concepts used in planning, I have appreciated expanding my knowledge about the importance of local government practices. Before my internship, I had no idea what a planning director or department actually did, but I have now realized the importance of giving smaller communities greater influence and choice to handle issues that impact them. I have enjoyed my internship because it has opened my eyes to more career paths that help people and the environment simultaneously. 

-Gabriella Paone, Class of 2023

Turning Tides: Powering Communities with Water

The waves swiftly and powerfully approach, but I refuse to back down from my task. I will slow them. My arms raise, hands outstretched, palms facing the barreling waves. “Slow, slow, slow,” is the mantra repeating endlessly in my head as I urge the waves to bend to my will. For a second, I doubt my powers, but then, the waves spill forth in a spray of seafoam and coat my feet in a layer of sand. As the water recedes back to its home, I stare at my feet in awe of my power and upright position.

The moment of quiet triumph is succeeded by inevitable failure as the tide pushes in and my powers fail me. In spite of my powers, the waves refuse to slow and charge at me with full force, knocking me to the sand and filling my eyes and nose with saltwater. I emerge from the waves, spluttering in frustration, and trudge back towards my mom, soaking wet and stiff from the sand.

Ever since I was a kid, I have been captivated by the water and the power in its waves. However, my fascination has shifted from controlling the power held in the motion of water to harnessing that power. As a result, when I heard about the Outer Banks Field Site and the internship opportunities included in the curriculum, I leaped at the chance to apply.

During the summer, I had a Zoom call with Corey Adams, the internship coordinator at the Outer Banks Field Site. This call consisted of me expressing interest in renewable energy, public policy, and bridging the gap between the public, policymakers, and renewable energy companies. A broad range of interests, but he immediately mentioned the North Carolina Renewable Ocean Energy Program (NCROEP), located at the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI). After this call, I was assigned an internship with George Bonner, Director of NCROEP.

Marine hydrokinetic energy technologies (MHKs) have a plethora of applications in NC including electrifying ferries, desalination operations, aquaculture production, and powering microgrids. These technologies provide a means of addressing the NC Clean Energy Plan and contributing to more resilient coastal communities, especially those on the Outer Banks. This semester, I am interning with NCROEP and compiling a report entitled, Powering NC’s Blue Economy, to indicate viable markets for expanding the use of MHKs in NC. Additionally, this report will address how to engage stakeholders in discussions about implementing MHKs along the coast.

Mr. Bonner has been an invaluable resource in expanding my knowledge of MHKs and my future opportunities in the field of renewable energy. During our first Zoom calls in August, we compiled a work plan that prioritized Powering NC’s Blue Economy, a means of incorporating all of the interests I had expressed in the initial call with Corey Adams. Since then, we have had weekly meetings that are the highlight of my internship. Every call includes new information and resources to help improve my report, an opportunity to see what Mr. Bonner has been working on and provide my own insight, and information about summer internships. The skills and knowledge that I have gained from Mr. Bonner make me more confident about my career path.

My average work day at the Coastal Studies Institute, North Carolina. November 2020.

From writing my report, I am most excited about the potential for electrifying ferries. The NC Ferry Division is facing problems from fewer passengers and therefore, less revenue. Additionally, the transportation sector in NC contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, reducing reliance on diesel fuel for ferry operations would reduce costs associated with fuel and contribute to overall greenhouse gas emission reduction goals in the NC Clean Energy Plan. Washington is already developing electric ferries which enables NC to learn and benefit from using Washington’s progress as a foundation. While there are barriers to electrifying ferries, the potential is immense and would benefit coastal communities, especially those that are reliant on ferries for supplies and evacuation in the case of emergencies. Hopefully, my report can illuminate the potential for electric ferries in NC.

The report culminates in a review of stakeholder engagement strategies and means of addressing stakeholder concerns. This portion of the report is of particular interest to me because throughout my time at the Outer Banks Field Site, I have learned about stakeholder engagement in Professor Linda D’Anna’s class. Stakeholders are essential to consider when examining the potential for MHKs because, without stakeholder inclusion and compromise, projects can be derailed. Additionally, it is important to consider the coastal communities that are reliant on the water and resources affected by MHKs. By including coastal communities, local government, fishers and fisheries associations, and other stakeholders in the discussion, a project gains credibility and support.

This has been a wonderful opportunity to learn more about renewable energy and my home state. I am proud of the strides that are being made toward a cleaner future in NC and hope that my report can help NCROEP further their goals for MHK development and operation.

– Meagan Gates, UNC-Chapel Hill, Class of 2022

An OBXFS Internship: A Love for Writing and Science

I had just arrived in Manteo, with my family, one day before I was to move into the guest house with the other students. I went onto the balcony of the hotel to take a call, as my younger brother complained about the quality of the Wi-Fi in our room. He, of course, did not see a need to stop while I answered the phone. 

Cory was calling to talk to me about my internship placement, he told me I would be working with Parker Kellam and John McCord in CSI’s Public Outreach and Education Department. He explained that I would be writing content for the CSI website about current research while also providing insight into the field site. I remember telling him that the placement sounded perfect and that I was excited to start. My mom, who is always more excited than me about everything, was eagerly waiting to hear what I was going to be doing. I believe my exact words to her were, “science writing.” Of course I went on to give her more detail and basically repeat what Cory had told me, but I realized I still had no idea what I was about to embark on.  

Nonetheless, I was excited that I would be writing. I have always loved to write, in fact for a very short time in middle school I had convinced myself I was going to make a living writing fictional novels. I’ll admit, I still daydream about locking myself in a cabin somewhere in the woods to create the next best-selling fiction series, but my passion for the environment always wins out. Which is why the prospect of combining my love for writing and science into one thing brought a smile to my face even before I really knew what was going on. 

Lauren and Heidi Working
Heidi and I coordinated on many projects over the semester. Having her around added to the quality of every article I wrote.

During our first two weeks at the field site Lindsay managed to set up work spaces at CSI, for those who wanted them. I can’t remember if it was by chance, or on purpose, but I ended up being assigned to the same room as the Outreach and Education Department’s other intern, Heidi. On our first day, as Parker and John explained their expectations and suggested projects for us to begin, I had no idea how much Heidi and I would end up working together. 

The first piece I produced for CSI’s website was an article about the first two weeks at the field site. I really enjoyed working on it, as it gave me the chance to get to know my peers. While working on this story I learned more about Meagan, another student that worked in the same room as Heidi and I. She too would become a centerpiece of the memories I created while working at this internship.

Lauren Colonair at Internship
I spent a lot of time at CSI, in my workspace, writing stories for the website.

Still, I was ready to write about research at CSI. John suggested I talk to three different researchers, including Dr. Kimberly Rogers. As I worked on the article about Dr. Roger’s research on sediment and resilience in Bangladesh, I found my love for science deepening and discovered a new hunger to learn about new fields of science I hadn’t previously contemplated. This hunger intensified as I moved onto my second piece, which focused on research being performed by Dr. Jim Morley on oyster leases. 

This second project is when Heidi and I really got to know each other. John and Dr. Morley’s PhD. student, Andrew McMains, were kind enough to set up a day for me and Heidi to join Andrew as he carried out field work for the research. This, however, required us to drive three hours to Morehead City, spend the day on a boat, and drive three hours back to Manteo. It was the absolute best day of the entire internship.

Field work with Andrew
Andrew showed us how to tag fish with acoustic trackers during our time in the field.

I am not saying Heidi, Meagan, and I did not enjoy our internship days at CSI, but this day was special. Heidi and I woke up very early, at least in my mind. I had learned Heidi wakes up before the sun on a regular basis, and she was more than happy to be starting our drive to meet Andrew. We talked for the entire three hours there and almost the entire three hours back. The work we did with Andrew not only gave me interesting content to write about, but it also revealed that I do really enjoy field work of all types. Something I wouldn’t have known if I wasn’t afforded the experience. 

In short, once the day was over I found myself with new knowledge to carry with me into my future academic and career oriented endeavors, but more importantly I gained a friend I intend to keep around. 

Still shot from Student Interview
One of our fellow students, Todd Davis, was kind enough to allow us to interview him for our YouTube videos.

I continued to write articles about the field site and assist Parker with social media content for CSI. I am in the process of finishing up my last research article, and to be completely honest, I wish it wasn’t so close to being over. Luckily, Heidi and I decided to work together to create two YouTube Videos for CSI’s page. We still have a lot to do, so I don’t have to think about the end just yet. 

The internship was, overall, an integral part of my experience at the field site. It allowed me to do something I love while learning about my field of study, broader scientific topics, and what I want in the future. Through the guidance of Parker and John I feel I have become a better writer and have learned how to present information to the public in a more streamlined manner. I was even lucky enough to work with people I really enjoyed and gain life long friends through the experience. I’m proud of what I have accomplished, but I will miss working at CSI with John, Parker, Heidi, and Meagan.

Lauren Colonair, Class of 2021 

OBX: Through the Lens

I got an opportunity to do something I love this semester. Observing, learning, creating, travelling (as much as COVID restrictions allow anyways). I met new people, listened to their stories, and discovered so much more of the Outer Banks than I would have on my own. Why did I have access to these experiences? Well, I photographed them, as a photojournalism intern with the Coastal Studies Institute’s (CSI’s) outreach department. I worked with John McCord, the outreach director, and tag-teamed a lot of my projects with another intern, Lauren Colonair. She wrote stories, I took photos for them. Lauren and I got to go on road trips, talk to researchers at CSI, and have access to an incredible amount of camera and recording equipment. Our two final projects, videos on the 2020 Outer Banks Field Site (OBXFS) and the capstone research project, are available on the CSI YouTube channel.

I also worked on projects individually. The Coastal Landscape Initiative (CLI) is a program that promotes use of native plants in landscaping on the Outer Banks. Native plants are more environmentally friendly as they are already adapted to the environment and require less pesticides and care. CSI has beautifully landscaped gardens filled with native plants. 

Many days, I would go around sunrise to photograph the flowers, insects, and plants. I enjoyed working on this project because I love spending time outside and observing nature. I can now identify a lot of the plants I see around campus and the Outer Banks. Here are a few photos I made:









My favorite part of my internship were the two personal photo projects I completed on wildlife and water. I got to work on these on my own time; they forced me to leave my room and explore the Outer Banks and stretch my creativity. I would work on these projects whenever I needed a break from class or capstone work. Usually around sunrise or sunset I would go find a new place to check out, and spend some time observing and practicing my patience before taking photos. I spent a lot of time trying to represent my subjects in unique ways. 

Bioluminescence at Coquina Beach

My internship was a great experience. It helped improve my photography and videography skills and taught me more about what I want for my future. The semester is coming to a close, but everything I learned from my internship and classes will follow me. I’m grateful for this opportunity and that I got to do something I love. Sending a huge thank you to everyone at CSI who helped make the 2020 OBX Field Site a great experience.

                                                                                                      – Heidi Hannoush, Class of 2023

OBXFS and Coastal Planning: Interning with the Town of Nags Head

My coursework through the OBXFS has been greatly supplemented through my internship placement with the Principal Planner in the Town of Nags Head. Holly White, long time Nags Head resident and Principal Planner for the municipality, has so graciously been exposing me to the inner workings of the town and providing learning experiences on how local government works. Acting as somewhat of an all-purpose helper, I’ve helped Holly with town preparations for CRS inspections as well as furthered my own environmental education messaging projects. My projects have surrounded effective messaging on environmental issues and information via social media. I have been creating Instagram posts, Facebook write-ups, tweets and a social media posting plan for future interns.

When corresponding with Corey about internship placement preferences, I told him that the most useful experience for me personally, would give me more context for understanding what career paths will make me feel the most fulfilled. After exploring the list together and reading internship blog posts from previous years, I came to believe that interning with a municipality would be a perfect fit for completing that goal. From my first call connecting with Holly, I knew that COVID-19 circumstances wouldn’t hinder our ability to work together. Interested in both my academic and emotional transition to the Outer Banks, Holly always took time to understand my perspectives and make our work together as impactful, relevant and engaging as possible. Coming into my internship, it was already predetermined that my work would be environmentally focused; the format of my work however, was something Holly and I developed together. After discussing a need for more outreach, specifically in the realm of social media, Holly and I decided that I would explore the Town’s social media presence and find ways to increase its effectiveness. The social media campaigns we’ve developed have been for both short-term and long-term use. Spot-light, information-dense campaigns would run for roughly three weeks, with weekly or biweekly posts. On the other hand, long-term campaigns – sparser and more simplistic in information – would run for six months or longer.

My experience with the Town of Nags Head was enhanced by Holly’s willingness to introduce me to her coworkers and connect me better with the rest of the department and town staff. From arranging calls with herself, Kate Jones, (engineering technician and the Town’s point-person on stormwater management) and Kylie Shephard , (another environmental planner in the Planning Department) to better inform me on the Town’s management strategies, to letting me sit in on staff meetings and see how decisions get made, Holly made sure that my internship taught me more than just what we discussed as experience deliverables.

Here is the title slide of a “Word of the Week” post, meant to draw in the audience with its simplicity

My favorite campaign we developed is a long-term campaign titled “Word of the Week” which aims to simplify scientific terms related to septic system health, climate change and other environmental concerns of the town. “Word of the Week” tries to ‘make science simple’ so that residents are better able to understand and contextualize Town recommendations and plans, hopefully empowering them to become more involved in communal problem-solving. “Word of the Week” is a campaign that could continue into the foreseeable future. There will always be work to be done closing the knowledge gaps that exist between researchers and residents.

Here are two of the informational slides. I believed that this campaign would be the most effective if there was as little jargon as possible.
Fun Fact: Holly is actually the one who suggested the utilization of memes (which as a young adult I was extremely fond of), stating that the residents were extremely receptive to ‘Dad Jokes’

All in all, my internship experience has provided me with useful real-world experience and connections to the Outer Banks that I will take beyond my time at the fieldsite. Thank you to the OBXFS professors and coordinators for arranging this experience and thank you to Holly White for your time and patience. I may not want to work in local government but I have definitely gained a greater appreciation of the inner workings of government and the nuances of public service. Go out and vote; remain civically engaged and make the work of your public officials more efficient and effective. Governance has always been a communal endeavor and needs to remain so! Apathy will be the death of our democracy.