Summer interns value GSMNP experiences

August 30, 2016

Summer Interns from NC and TN 2016
Linden Jones
Linden Jones discovering his “wing span” is comparable to a bald eagle! All photos by NPS/Erin Lamm

by Linden Jones
Rising Junior at Asheville School
Asheville, North Carolina

Our six weeks in the Smokies were eye opening.

We learned how to track elk using radio telemetry and triangulation.

We helped out around the Oconaluftee and Sugarlands Visitor Centers setting up for festivals and pulling weeds.

We mounded graves for a cemetery visitation weekend on Fontana Lake.

Interns work on Stonepile Gap Trail
Interns work on Stonepile Gap Trail with the FOTS Trails Forever crew.

We spent a week removing invasive plants with the vegetation crew.

Then came a week improving trails with the Trails Forever crew.

After all the hard work, we treated ourselves to a few field trips to the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site and Warren Wilson College.

Then we spent a day with the wildland fire division, and the rest of the week we split into archaeological, entomological, salamander and bird banding groups.

Interns record data about salamanders
Interns record data after an afternoon of salamandering.

We took turns going out with the fisheries division and conducted stream shocks.

Throughout these activities we learned things we would not have ever known and made connections to last a lifetime.

During our time in the internship, our group met 48 different professionals and joined them in their respective fields. We heard their stories of how they got into their jobs.

The general consensus was that it takes a lot to be a park employee.

Bird banding
A bird banding event at Tremont provided the interns with the opportunity to get up-close to wildlife.

The NPS positions are very competitive with over 200 applicants per position in some cases. We learned just what a résumé needs in order to pass a screening process.

In addition to our specialized application knowledge, the connections we built with park employees will assist us in our own application processes. This advantage is just another of the many gifts that come wrapped in the six weeks of the internship.

Just as important as the bonds formed with the adults in the park, we formed relationships with our fellow interns that will not be forgotten. These friendships were formed throughout the six weeks while we rode to our locations together and during conversations on the job.

Interns remove artificial dam in stream
Removing an artificial dam, which can block the passage of fish and change the water temperature.

We, the interns, spent time together outside of work, told stories and jokes to one another in the mornings while waiting to start and even swam together in Fontana Lake a few times.

Overall, the internship served us well and will continue to do so for years to come. We will be forever grateful for many things. We will remember the things we have learned, the connections formed, and the friendships made.

I’d like to extend a huge thanks to the National Park Service and American Conservation Experience for all they have done for my internship friends and me. The program helped give me friends, spark an interest in the Park Service, and give me a phenomenal look at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

[The photo at the top of the blog post is of the summer interns from North Carolina and from Tennessee and some of the NPS team who worked with them. The photo was taken in the Cataloochee Valley on one of the first days of the internship. Erin Lamm (on the far left) worked with the NC interns and was the photographer for the photos in the interns’ blog posts. To her right are Rangers Julianne Geleynse and Joshua Contois. On the far right is Sharon Flowe, who was one of the Teachers-In-Parks who assisted primarily with the NC interns. Also pictured are Jay and Sandra Aldrich, volunteers who worked primarily with the TN interns. Photo by NPS/Joshua Contois)

To support programs like this, make a donation today.
To support programs like this, make a donation today.

This is the last in a series of blog posts by high school students participating in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Summer Internship Program. This summer, 19 students are participating, representing high schools in North Carolina and Tennessee that are near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The program is funded by both the Youth Partnership Program and Friends of the Smokies. FOTS has supported the program for 16 years, initially providing the salaries for the interns and now funding the program staff salaries.

The program is designed to give the interns a little taste of a variety of activities that rangers are involved with – from fisheries science to botany to forest and stream ecology. The interns gain an understanding of how the park is managed and are introduced to possible career opportunities.

Read other posts by the GSMNP summer interns:

Hannah Ensley introduces the program.

Nicole Welbourn helped the Fisheries division with a stream inventory.

Matthew Sullivan explains the training needed to be a wildland firefighter.

Laura Booth discusses the maintenance work that the NPS does for cemeteries in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.