Whether interning with a government agency, non-profit organization, or private business, many students spend their summers gaining real-world experience, perspective and skills that enable them to be more competitive in the market place. In their own words, learn how these experiences have positively impacted their lives and careers:

Andrea McCravy, Wildlife Ecology and Management

Andrea with a juvenile Bald Eagle

Major: Wildlife Ecology and Management
Expected Graduation: Spring 2020
Organization: American Eagle Foundation, Pigeon Forge, TN
Internship Completed: Summer 2018

During the summer of 2018, I was fortunate enough to intern at the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) in Pigeon Forge, TN. The American Eagle Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation, education, conservation, and repopulation of Bald Eagles and other birds of prey. As an intern, I assisted staff and volunteers in the daily cleaning of enclosures and feedings of their non-releasable raptors. There was never a day where I was not covered in bird poop, quail feathers, or rat guts. I also learned more about the art of flight training birds of prey for their daily exercise and for the Wings of America show at Dollywood. One of the most exciting experiences of my internship was assisting in the daily care of AEF’s captive-bred eaglets located in their hack tower over Douglas Lake. The AEF is the only organization in the United States that is still permitted to breed Bald Eagles and release them into the wild for the purpose of re-population.

Aside from the daily care of raptors, my internship program was focused on the educational aspect of avian conservation. Throughout my summer internship, I completed two special projects that involved giving raptor presentations and interacting with the public. For both of my projects, I presented educational programs to large groups of people, and for my final project, I debuted on the stage of Wings of America at Dollywood and spoke to the public about Eastern Screech Owls. Throughout my internship, I was able to expand on my knowledge of raptor husbandry and conquer my fear of public speaking. This internship really challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and obtain new knowledge not only about birds of prey but the AEF as well. The staff and volunteers were always encouraging and willing to help me whenever I faced a challenge. My experiences at the AEF have provided me with many networking and job opportunities, and as a result of my hard work and dedication as an intern, the AEF offered me a seasonal position for the summer of 2019. If you are interested in interning with them next summer, I encourage you to visit their website to learn more about how to apply.

Images (link from Andrea’s photo above):
Top Left: Me and Penny, a juvenile Bald Eagle, spending time outside.
Top Right: Posing for a photo after my presentation in the Wings of America show at Dollywood, featuring Gimli the Eastern Screech Owl.
Bottom: Speaking to a large tour group about Barred Owls, featuring Barry the Barred Owl.

Olivia Wilkes, Wildlife Ecology and Management

Major: Wildlife Ecology and Management
Expected Graduation: Spring 2021
Organization: Utah State University, Randolph, Utah
Internship Completed: Summer 2019

Wildlife Ecology and Management junior, Olivia Wilkes, spent the summer 2019 internship experience working as a wildlife technician in northeastern Utah assisting a Utah State University graduate student with her research on Greater Sage-grouse.

Known as an “indicator species” whose population stability is linked with rangeland health, Greater Sage-grouse have declined in numbers over the past several decades. The species has since been the focus of much research. Beginning in May, Wilkes job as a technician consisted of using radio telemetry to track and monitor several radio-collared sage-grouse hens as they nested and raised broods. She bunked in the small ranching town of Randolph and worked on the surrounding Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, land. On a daily basis, she rode an ATV and hiked over the hills of sagebrush with her telemetry antennae to locate the study birds.

Early in the summer, Wilkes found the birds’ nests and checked in on the incubating hens every other day to see if they successfully hatched their broods. Once the chicks hatched and were mobile, her job was to continue following the hens and collect data on brood location and survival, as well as vegetation data for each place a brood was spotted.

“Being a wildlife technician in Utah was an incredible experience,” said Wilkes.

Besides getting to watch baby sage-grouse grow up and eventually fly off to hopefully raise broods of their own next spring, Wilkes enjoyed learning about ranching life from the people of Randolph and exploring the beautiful Utah outdoors.

“I’ve come away from my summer job with new field skills and a broadened knowledge of United States wildlife,” said Wilkes. “I’m excited to continue studying and working with wildlife at Auburn and in Alabama as I return to my home state this fall!”

Emily Hildebrand, Geospatial and Environmental Informatics

Major: Geospatial and Environmental Informatics
Expected Graduation: Spring 2020
Organization: U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL
Internship Completed: Summer 2019

Geospatial and Environmental Informatics senior, Emily Hildebrand, spent her summer internship experience working as a crew trainer for the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Hildebrand’s role as crew trainer was to teach groups of 16 kids about U.S. space history, putting them through astronaut training with the Multi Axis Trainer, 1/6th chair that simulates the moons gravity, and the Degrees of Freedom chair. During her internship, Hildebrand worked with many international kids from China, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, as well as children from across the state. Her teams earned the Commanders Cup Award, the Right Stuff Award, and Outstanding Team.

“This has been the most incredible summer with so many opportunities. I went to West Virginia on a sales trip to work the Multi Axis Trainer at the 24th Annual World Scout Jamboree. I also got to be an astronaut handler, which means I introduced astronauts and sponsors to the trainees. I introduced the Vice President of Sentar, a cyber defense company, and the astronaut Mike Foreman who was on the ISS,” said Emily.

Over the summer, Hildebrand also volunteered during a record launch of model rockets where the center launched 5,000 model rockets to beat the Guinness World Record. She also attended or worked at many special events including the 50th Apollo Anniversary Space Camp Hall of Fame induction dinner and the Summerfest concert event.

“As a crew trainer, my favorite thing was encouraging kids to push past their fears and see their spark of loving space grow over the summer,” said Hildebrand.”Working with very different types of kids helps you with problem solving and teaches you to keep calm when they aren’t.”

Of her career aspirations, Hildebrand feels the experience provided opportunity to further develop her professional network and deepened her understanding of geospatial technology applications for space exploration.

Bree Bennett, Wildlife Ecology and Management

Major: Wildlife Ecology and Management
Expected Graduation: Spring 2022
Organization: Herring Gut Learning Center, Port Clyde, Maine
Internship Completed: Summer 2019

Wildlife ecology and management sophomore, Bree Bennett, spent her summer internship experience working as a teacher/camp counselor at the Herring Gut Learning Center marine science camp in Port Clyde, Maine.

“We hang out with kids from 1st grade to 7th grade 5 days a week and teach them about inter-tidal zones, climate change, environmental justice, and take them on several field trips to experience the east coast to it’s full potential,” said Bennett. “I’ve learned so much about marine science and working with children that I plan to carry with me for the rest of my career!”

Included are pictures from camp, including a raptor lesson Bennett taught (thanks to her knowledge from volunteering at the Southeast Raptor Center in Auburn), a lesson she taught on crab/lobster anatomy, song-writing where she helped the kids write and perform songs about what they’ve learned, and a few from Allen Island, where she took the kids every Thursday.

If you would like to share your internship experience with your peers and the SFWS community, please email sfwscom@auburn.edu with your name, major, anticipated graduation date and where you are interning (or interned), what you learned, and how you feel this experience will benefit your academic and/or professional career. Also, please send a photo(s) of your internship work with a caption as well.