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The Importance of Internships

Posted: November 7, 2012

Senior Wildlife and Fisheries Science major Megan Davis recounts her journey through internships with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that ultimately landed her a full-time job upon graduation from Penn State!

I began my time with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when I volunteered at Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Warsaw, Virginia at 15 years old. I aided the staff in trail work and was offered a Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) position the following summer as a biological science aid. After being at Rappahannock River Valley NWR for three summers, I was offered a Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) position in refuge management at Parker River NWR in Newburyport, Massachusetts!

I've learned so much with my positions and have had fun along the way. Two of the projects I'm most proud of include an American kestrel study and a northern long-eared bat/small-footed myotis study. While at Penn State I was awarded a research grant of $3,000 to study American kestrels. When I was applying for the grant, the Refuge staff was extremely supportive of me wanting to lead a project and allowed me to conduct the study during my summer at Parker River NWR. With the project, I learned about field work, and that no research project ever goes the exact way you expect it to! I have also had the pleasure of working with bats at Great Bay NWR using radio telemetry. We worked late hours into the night following bats around the refuge to calculate home ranges for the two species, and I also led vegetation surveys on the day roosts! The project not only taught me about bats, but I was also able to strengthen my communication skills as I had to coordinate with local landowners to track bats on their adjacent properties.

After five years with the Fish and Wildlife Service, I've grown both professionally and personally. I have been able to develop GIS skills that I had minimal experience with before, and can now better understand how crucial partnerships are to the Service. Beyond professional skills, I've also learned there's always more than one way to do anything, you may just have to think a little harder!

My time with the Service has been absolutely incredible and I couldn't ask for a better experience. My hope is to continue working for the Service, and hopefully be employed in every region at least once. I have accepted a full-time permanent position with the Service as the Refuge Operations Specialist at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in western New York! Needless to say, I'm excited for the many adventures to come my way, and to put to use the foundation that I have developed here at Penn State. 

--Megan Davis