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Ten Weeks for a Formative Experience: Wisconsin Sea Grant offers adapted summer undergraduate internships

Ten weeks can be fleeting. Even though the days may pass quickly, they can be momentous ones. At Wisconsin Sea Grant this summer, the hope is that for eight undergraduates 70 days will be formative. 

The eight students—Brenna DeNamur, Elise Ertl, Claire Finucane, Celeste Gunderson, Emma Holton, Sarah Schlitz, Isabel St. Arnold and Eliza Suchan—are participating in an inaugural internship program targeted toward underserved and indigenous communities, rich in mentoring and, in three of the five opportunities, focused on tribal issues.  

Wisconsin Sea Grant’s internships are part of a new initiative across the Sea Grant network, the Community Engaged Internship (CEI) for Undergraduate Students. CEI serves as an umbrella under which Sea Grant programs may develop their own unique internship opportunities around the central theme of recruiting, retaining and engaging diverse students in place-based research, extension, education and/or communication that respects and integrates local ways of knowing. 

“Mentoring is at the core of these internships,” said Moira Harrington, Wisconsin Sea Grant’s Assistant Director for Communications. 

Because students are paired with staff for intensive learning and exposed to interactions with other professionals, “We jumped at the chance to bring in students to get real-world experience that will serve them in their careers. In communications, we’re looking forward to offering Elise Ertl a meaningful situation where she can formulate aquatic invasive species messaging for tribal and non-tribal audiences,” Harrington said. 

The junior majoring in biology and writing at the University of Wisconsin-Superior will hone her skills in science communication by assisting in the planning of the 2020-21 season of the River Talks. She’ll also have opportunities for her writing to be shared broadly through Wisconsin Sea Grant’s website, blog posts and the quarterly Aquatic Sciences Chronicle.

In addition to Ertl, the other interns are tackling projects that interest them: 

DeNamur, Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Great Lakes Literacy

Finucane, Great Lakes Geospatial Data Visualizing

Gunderson, Green Infrastructure Climate Adaptation and Coastal Resilience 

Holton, Building Resilience Against Climate Effects

Schlitz, Promoting Watershed Health with Citizen Science

St. Arnold, Foreground the Significance of Manoomin Through Education and Outreach 

Suchan, Fish Guts: Understanding the Diets of Great Lakes Fish

Harrington said the challenges posed by the pandemic were an unexpected factor in planning for the internships, but trusting in the resilience of the cohort, she and her fellow mentors decided to forge ahead, revising some of the opportunities. For example, the fish guts project had been designed for field sampling and will now shift, in part, to literature review. 

Joining other interns across Sea Grant, Wisconsin Sea Grant’s interns will help form the inaugural cohort of CEI student interns. Within the cohort, students will be able to virtually connect with one another to network and participate in professional development. In addition to the guidance provided by interns’ formal mentors, there will be opportunities for mentorship between interns as well as with graduate and postgraduate students participating in the Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship.

To learn more about the Community Engaged Internship for Undergraduate Students, click here.


Moira Harrington contributed to this article.


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