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My Summer in the Field

Posted: September 4, 2012

This fall semester marks both the beginning of my final semester at Penn State as well as the conclusion of an amazing summer internship with the Conewago Creek Initiative.
I participated in a fish electroshock survey of the Conewago Creek

I participated in a fish electroshock survey of the Conewago Creek

With classes underway, football kickoff, and beautiful weather accompanying the first week of the school year, Happy Valley is echoing with Penn State pride! I am so enthusiastic to be returning for my final semester at Penn State! I will be writing the Think Again blog again for you this fall, with help from my new fellow intern and ERM student, Frank!

While I am excited to be back for another semester, I had an amazing summer spent interning with the Conewago Creek Initiative in Middletown, Pa. I cannot believe how fast the summer flew by! The Conewago Initiative is a locally led partnership effort, part of Penn State Extension, which seeks to improve water quality in the Conewago Creek watershed by working with local residents and landowners in the community to increase awareness and interest in adopting land-management practices that will improve the water quality of local streams, ensure healthy farms, forests, and communities, and protect and maintain the region’s quality of life.

My involvement with the Conewago Initiative included community outreach, direct contact with farmers and landowners, water quality monitoring, the implementation and maintenance of riparian buffers along streams, participation in meetings with partners to coordinate efforts, and the creation of educational materials and a video to educate members of the watershed on best management practices to improve water quality. I discovered this summer that there is no better way to learn than to be hands-on in the field!

One of my favorite memories from the summer was a fish survey we conducted on the Conewago Creek as part of routine water quality monitoring. We teamed up with the area’s conservation district to electroshock a section of the creek that has recently undergone restoration. The survey method of electroshocking uses a non-harmful level of current to shock the fish, causing them to be stunned and float to the surface. The fish shocking produced amazing results, showing an increase in both the number of species and overall number of fish sampled. In four hours, we recorded more than 800 fish! These results reinforced that the work that was done on the site to create a buffer and engineered wetland did in fact make a difference in the creek, therefore improving water quality not only in the Conewago but downstream, as far as the Chesapeake Bay.

I cannot speak highly enough of my summer experiences and the hands-on knowledge and skills I learned as an intern. Through this opportunity I gained an infinite amount of knowledge in my field of study as well as improved my leadership, communication and professional skills that I can take forward with me as I enter the job market. The take-away message that I hope to share with students looking to obtain more experience in your field of study: become an intern!

To learn more about the internship I participated in, you can also watch this video about my fellow Conewago intern and ERM student Kristen Kyler.