My favorite part of any experience whether it be an internship, academic semester, or major life event, is everything you learn in between the lines.
This summer I worked on multiple projects like northern spotted owl surveying, mission blue butterfly monitoring, coyote tracking, stream insect sampling, and much more. The technical and professional skills I developed are invaluable moving forward. These aspects of the internship will be displayed and talked about on my resume and CV in the years to come, but I want to share the personal details that mean much more.
My first day of the internship was exciting but slightly embarrassing. I was told I needed to show up with appropriate boots, pants, and additional attire for fieldwork—I had none of that. Growing up I never visited a national park, let alone go out for hikes. I am the first college student in my family and the first scientist. Most of my knowledge of natural landscapes was learned through textbooks and in the confine of a classroom. I began hiking and exploring my potential in outdoor environments as a young adult, but these were just recreational activities. When I began my fieldwork for the SIP internship I was thrown into a new world. I was challenged physically, mentally, and economically. This was a moment where I felt discouraged and a bit ashamed. I didn’t have the resources necessary to conduct my fieldwork. But the program stepped up and helped me access these resources. It was here when I realized that despite my disadvantage I was going to receive the resources and support necessary to succeed.
For people who didn’t grow up around the outdoors, academia, or science in general. Internships like the SIP program can be intimidating. Luckily, I was blessed with two amazing mentors, Bill and Rachel who provided the space to grow as a scientist and individual. In addition to my mentors, I was warmly welcomed by an inclusive and supportive staff. I was invited to multiple sites with different people on the natural resources team to experience a bit of everything. We surveyed SF garter snakes, grunions, plovers, and conducted aquatic ecology work. My biggest moment of growth was working on the coyote project. I was tasked to go out and track the coyotes and was the first to analyze the data and make the connections.
My feelings of intimidation and imposter syndrome calmed when I realized the teams from both my program and project site were there for me. My biggest lesson learned was not the technical or professional skills, but the realization that I am capable even when it doesn’t feel like it. I am an important contributor and professional even when I don’t believe it myself. As my journey comes to an end I cannot help but wish I could do it again, it was truly a life-changing experience. I want to say thank you to all those who helped me during my journey to find within myself that I am exactly where I need to be.