M.S. in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science

Archived Internship Projects

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2019 Cohort

Jordyn Anderson

Anderson Selfie Jordyn (Fall 2019 cohort) is from Seattle, Washington and her internship is with OceanEra. A fun fact about her internship is that one of the species of algae grown at OceanEra is Halymenia, and all of the biomass (over 100kg at one point) at the facility, comes from a single plant that was collected from the wild! At OceanEra, she is learning what it takes to be a technician at an aquaculture facility, with her favorite organisms, native Hawaiian algae. In addition to cleaning, caring for the plants, and maintaining their tanks, she is also learning the "behind the tank" skills, such as plumbing water and air lines, and small construction projects to make pieces that fit OceanEra's exact needs. Jordyn's favorite part of her internship is working with Keelee Martin (OceanEra mentor), who shares her love for native species of algae. One of the most challenging things Jordyn does on a typical day is culling the plants that are not thriving. While it makes her sad to dispose of them, it is always for the better of the main biomass in the tank!

Geoffrey Grimmett

Grimmett Selfie Geoffrey (Fall 2019 cohort) was raised in Alexandria, Virginia but currently resides in Mililani on the island of Oahu. Geoffrey's internship is with The Hawaii State Department of Health's Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response (HEER). Fun fact about HEER: Geoffrey believes "the campus is haunted, there's a ton of old buildings, an abandoned pool, and an old graveyard on site". During his internship he was tasked with obtaining and mapping the residential addresses of children who received a blood lead test between the years of 2015 and 2019. He pulled environmental pollution data from the state's databases and mapped these as environmental exposure sites in GIS. Finally, he used all of these data to assess how environmental factors may be contributing to lead exposure in Hawaii. Geoffrey's favorite part of his internship was going to work every day with his mentors, getting to learn from them, and getting to know them. In addition, he thoroughly enjoyed participating in the site investigation that HEER conducted for one Oahu family. The most challenging aspect of his internship was familiarizing with the organization (HEER) and getting used to working remotely during the early parts of COVID-19.

Sean Kirkpatrick

Sean (Fall 2019 cohort) is originally from California and his internship is with the Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry (IPIF). The scientists at IPIF lead the development and communication of knowledge and technology required to sustain, enhance, and restore the function, health, and productivity of ecological, hydrological, and atmospheric systems, and associated benefits to society. The focus of Sean's internship is bio-security and the disease Rapid Ohia Death and the Ceratocystis fungi that cause it. Moreover, he is tasked with quantifying the translocation risk of viable spores and how effective the suggested sanitation are at reducing that risk. When asking Sean about his favorite part of his internship, he responded, "Knowing that my efforts will have a long lasting impact on the native landscape". The most challenging aspect of his internship: "Some of the diagnostic methods that are employed in the lab are extremely meticulous requiring patience and a lot of practice to become proficient at".

Kawehi Lopez

Kawehi Lopez selfie Kawehi (Fall 2019 cohort) is from Panaʻewa, Hilo and her internship is with Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BIISC). Fun fact about her agency: employees of the Big Island Invasive Species Committee are referred to as BIISC-uits. Kawehi is currently working on a digital communication plan to help BIISC transition and expand its educational components to an online platform. She is also working on an annual report to share with local legislators and other local elected officials. In addition to this work, she plans on attending higher level planning meetings and learning more about the grant writing and reporting process. Kawehi is truly an all-star for BIISC! Kawehi mentions her favorite part of the internship is producing a video that depicts a typical day in the field with her rapid ʻōhiʻa death field crew, which will be shown at this year's ʻŌhiʻa Love Fest in November 2020. Not unlike others, the most challenging part of her internship was the influence of COVID-19, as her original research project was on the barriers and benefits of homeowner control of invasive little fire ants.

Sarah J. Norrbom

Internship Student, Sarah Norrbom, taking a nature selfie Sarah (Fall 2019 cohort) is from the beautiful Oregon Coast and her professional internship is with Tillamook Estuaries Partnership (TEP) and Friends of Netarts Bay Watershed, Estuary, Beach, and Sea (WEBS). TEP works to protect and restore the health of Tillamook County's watershed, this includes Tillamook Bay, which is listed as one of the 28 estuaries of national significance. Sarah's internship projects consist of: mapping invasive plant species in Tillamook County for both TEP and WEBS, collecting seeds and completing a seed collection story-map, and monitoring water quality of Sand Lake estuary. The majority of Sarah's professional internship is creating and compiling GIS information to identify future restoration and research needs in Tillamook County. She enjoys working outside on a variety of different projects from collecting data on water quality, to surveying invasive plant species, and collecting seeds or materials for plant propagation. Sarah says, "it is amazing to have the opportunity to work with all the wonderful people at TEP and WEBS while exploring all the beautiful places on the Oregon Coast". The most challenging part of her professional internship was finding a new professional internship agency and adapting her work around COVID restrictions.

Michael Stone

Michael (Fall 2019 cohort) is originally from Northern California and his professional internship is with Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund. Since 2003, Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund has pulled more than 285 tons of plastic pollution from the shores of Hawaiʻi Island alone. In the summer of 2020 Michael participated in beach cleanups, marine debris surveys, and net removals on the island of Hawaiʻi. Additionally, Michael had an opportunity to see the Hoʻōla One, a large machine that collects microplastics from sand, aid in the clean-up of microplastic-ridden beaches. During these outings he also collected data on brand name products that washed ashore Kamilo beach in Southeast Hawaiʻi. A rewarding aspect of his professional internship was submitting testimony on Senate Bill 52 “FOR AN ORDINANCE AMENDING CHAPTER 20.26, MAUI COUNTY CODE, RELATING TO THE SALE AND USE OF PLASTIC DISPOSABLE FOODWARE" which ended up passing unanimously on the board 9-0. Michael mentions the most challenging part of this experience was adapting the professional internship to COVID-19's strict social guidelines.

Sebastian Wells

Sebastian (Fall 2019 cohort) is from the beautiful Big Island of Hawaiʻi and his professional internship is with County of Hawaiʻi Real Property Tax Division. Did you know that the County of Hawaiʻi Real Property Tax Division is expanding their native forest dedication program to include a functional forest and a successional forest land-use dedication which enables landowners to receive reduced property tax rates for native forest restoration and preservation? Sebastian was integral in this program, developing documents that support the implementation of Bill 178 as it will streamline the process for the county, helping them to effectively and efficiently evaluate forestry management plans while also providing landowners with the tools they need to maximize the success of their native forest restoration endeavors. His favorite part of his internship was working together with a variety of ecological professionals such as an environmental lawyer and the County of Hawaiʻi Real Property Tax Division, on Bill 178 which will help to effectively preserve Hawaiʻiʻs native forests through island-wide native forest restoration. Sebastian mentions the most challenging aspect of his professional internship included creating a management plan and guidelines template that landowners can use to help them qualify for one of the three native forest land-use dedications.

Carmelita Villalobos

Picture of Carmelita on a boat Carmelita (Fall 2019 cohort) is from Chicago and her internship is with the Marine Mammal Center/Ke Kai Ola. Fun fact: there are only 1,400 Hawaiian Monk Seals in the world, all of which are located in the Hawaiian Islands. Three hundred of those seals are found on the main Hawaiian Islands. For her internship she is tasked with surveying Big Island beaches for monk seals, along with taking pictures of the 10 resident monk seals to create a catalog of their identifiers so they are easily recognized by staff and volunteers. Carmelita's internship also contains a community outreach role where she will be teaching the proper way to observe monk seals without disturbing or harming them to ensure that the population stays healthy. She describes her favorite part of working with Ke Kai Ola is "getting to survey the beaches in Kona for monk seals. Learning to identify monk seals in a field lava rock is a skill that takes a lot of practice! Finding a seal and knowing what to look for to tell them apart from the others is always challenging and exciting!". In the same vein, the most challenging part of her internship is learning to identify the 10 Hawaiian Monk Seals seen on Big Island since the markers and tags are hard to see, especially at a distance!

2018 Cohort

Alex Bischer

A student on a puʻu with telemetry tracking equipment Alex is originally from Pennsylvania and is doing his internship with the Natural Area Reserve System (NARS). He assisted with the 2019 Palila release at Puʻu Mali trying to restore a population of endangered honeycreepers. He has also been able to participate with the Alala Project, native bird banding, and invasive predator control. His favorite part of the internship has been the satisfaction of knowing that he is helping to restore an endangered bird population that has fewer than 1,000 individuals remaining in the wild. The most challenging part about the internship was the constant hiking up the slopes of Maunakea as they track the released birds with radio telemetry.

Talavi Denipah-Cook

A student wheel-barrowing chili Talavi is originally from Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico and is doing her internship with Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute. The agency is a non-profit organization ran by Indigenous people of the Southwest desert that primarily focuses on permaculture, traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), and cultural preservation through Indigenous ways of knowing. Talavai's position includes a wide array of responsibilites including learning how to build a chicken coop, taking care of turkeys, chickens, ducks, pigs, sheep, fish, and even bees, establishing herb gardens, a compost toilet, seed bank, green house, irrigation fields, and creating healthy ponds with various fish and plant species. Her favorite part of the internship is knowing that she is able to help the environment, conserve the land, and reset her well-being by practicing traditional pueblo methods and techniques that Indigenous people have been doing since time immemorial. One of the challenges she faced was participating in a one-month Pueblo Food Experience which consisted of changing her diet by only eating and drinking traditional native foods and liquids, i.e., traditional foods being anything pre-contact to European colonialism. Fortunately, her health vastly improved after this experience and she plans to sustain this diet for the rest of her life.

Samantha DeVivo

Samantha Devivo cleaning the virginica oyster tank for her internship Samantha is originally from Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania and is doing her internship with Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center (PACRC). Once an old wastewater treatment plant, PACRC now serves as the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo’s aquaculture facility. PACRC supports commercial aquaculture and fisheries while promoting conservation in East Hawaiʻi and worldwide. She serves as a intern/volunteer at PACRC in the bivalve hatchery and as an intern with the children’s learning center project. In the bivalve hatchery, she assists with the day-to-day functions needed for successful production while gaining valued hands-on aquaculture experience. As an intern working on the children’s learning center project, she helps in the renovation and transition of PACRC’s pavilion space into the new children’s learning center facility that will host local schools and community functions with a focus on children kindergarten through middle school. Samantha's favorite part of the internship: having the chance to be involved in community outreach; and the most challenging part of the internship: "FIRE ANTS EVERYWHERE"

Melanie Leilā Dudley

Melanie Leila Dudley planting Leilā is originally from Pāpaʻikou, Hilo Palikū and is interning with Hui Mālama i ke Ala ʻŪlili (huiMAU). She is helping restore and mālama the ʻāina of Koholālele, lead ʻāina education groups that huiMAU hosts, and collect and help process water samples for their microbes in order to assess the health of our ahupuaʻa. In addition, she is creating a curriculum to increase huiMAUʻs capacity to train future ʻāina educators at Koholālele and enhance huiMAUʻs education offerings. This guide includes a compilation of moʻolelo shared during visits, lessons that could be covered, as well as the ins and outs of running a typical mālama ʻāina group day. Leilā's favorite part of the internship is working with an organization that has a truly Hawaiʻi piko: "I love being able to work in ʻāina and so closely with the ʻohana and community members of Paʻauilo. I also love being able to feed our community physically, spiritually and emotionally, but also helping teach them how to feed themselves and create more pilina with ʻāina and one another." The most challenging part of the internship included weed whacking guinea grass without proper clothing! She now knows to cover up so she is not covered in fiber glass-like hairs after a rewarding day of work! When not at Koholālele, she connects with the kai through surfing.

John Flint

A student at Volcanoes National Park John is originally from Jacksonville, Arkansas and is doing his internship with the National Park Service in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. John works within the Interpretation Department at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, where he engages with visitors from all over the world about wildlife, natural areas, and cultural sites. For the internship, John's main duties are to answer park guest questions and provide suggestions about where they should go based on the what they want to experience. In addition, John started developing a new ranger talk for Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park and updating the volunteer handbook. John's favorite part of the internship occurred when he performed test versions of his ranger talk. He mentions how rewarding it was to see park guests engage in critical thinking about conservation related issues while simultaneously enjoying their experience. The largest challenge for John was developing the conservation talk in a way that carefully balanced the messages about threats to the environment and the ability for guests to have fun while feeling empowered.

Maya Goodoni

A student doing vegetation surveys Maya is originally from North Kohala, Hawaiʻi and is doing her internship with Three Mountain Alliance. Three Mountain Alliance is a watershed partnership that conducts native restoration, and ungulate and bird monitoring. She is an assistant to the data manager and is involved with inputing and synthesizing the data that the field crew collects, helping in writing reports, and participating in collecting restoration monitoring data and out-plantings of native trees. Her favorite part of the internship is going out in the field to collect data and writing the reports because those are skills that she will use for the rest of her career. The most challenging part of the internship was creating a digital report of the restoration data using ArcMap and Google Earth.

Amanda Irish

Amanda Irish internship photo Amanda is originally from Alaska and is doing her internship with Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BIISC). Amanda has thoroughly enjoyed her time with BIISC and mentions how great it has been working with colleagues that all share a real passion for conservation. She has been involved with analyzing invasive plant data and trying to figure out if their efforts have been successful. An aspect of her internship she has enjoyed the most were the conversations with different people at BIISC about invasive plant species in Hawaiʻi. One challenge she faced was trying to figure out how to answer BIISC's question about their efforts being successful or not.

Kelsey Keister

Kelsey Keister, a TCBES internship student, gazing at the ocean Kelsey is from Ohio and is doing her internship with The Marine Mammal Center. As the Response Intern for Ke Kai Ola she helped coordinate the volunteer response team, conducted outreach at seal haul out locations, gave facility tours to the public, and assisted with managing wild seal data. In addition, she utilized community engaged conservation strategies and the center's dedicated response volunteer corps to inspire local stewardship for endangered species in Hawaiʻi, while also using the monk seal as a vessel to advocate for global environmental issues. Kelsey's favorite part of the internship was engaging in bidirectional conservations with the community about ocean conservation. The most challenging aspect of her internship was having to make real time, multifaceted decisions about situations regarding wild seal response. Kelsey's fun fact: The official state mammal of Hawaii is the Hawaiian monk seal.

Wilson Malone

A student holding a sockeye salmon Wilson (Fall 2018 cohort) is originally from Soldotna, Alaska and is doing his internship with Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G). ADF&G is tasked with the sustainable management of Alaska's fish, wildlife, and aquatic resources. Its aim is to enable human use of the state's natural resources for the benefit of people and the economy. Wilson's position as a technician with ADF&G involves collecting genetic and catch-per-unit-effort data on chinook and sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha and Oncorhynchus nerka) for the purpose of managing the fisheries of the Kenai river. Genetic data are used by managers for the identification and temporal tracking of sub-populations within each species so that season openings can be timed correctly and catch limits can be established. Catch per unit effort data are obtained by deploying gill nets from the research boat, timing the length of each set, and counting the number and type of salmon. He is also tasked with statistically analyzing trends in population structure over time to determine the distribution of fish by sex, length, age, and growth rate, as well as the in-season trends in length that may indicate temporal sub-population differences during the run. His favorite part of the internship is working outside every day where he gets to experience a diverse range of wildlife. A challenging aspect of the internship was conducting creel surveys, which involves driving a boat up and down the river to count boats and the number of anglers. The position also required him to interview anglers, and record the amount of time they spent fishing and the number of fish they caught. Talking to strangers can be intimidating, not to mention asking them about taking scale samples from their fish catch.

Kelsey Meagher

A student by a Hawksbill Turtle nest Kelsey (Fall 2018 cohort) is originally from Napa Valley, California and is doing her internship with Hawaiʻi Island Hawksbill Sea Turtle Recovery Project. The Hawaiʻi Island Hawksbill Sea Turtle Recovery Project began monitoring for Hawksbill nesting activity in 1989, tagging of nesting females began in 1991, and intensive monitoring efforts that included nesting beaches both inside and outside of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park were initiated in 1993. The new untagged nesting females coming up this year could be from the project’s first documented clutch of hatchlings. Kelsey was part of monitoring two turtles returning for their biennial appearance and also experienced a nest excavation. As a volunteer the work is immersive: working at secluded beaches on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi, helping protect a critically endangered species, releasing hatchlings, and tagging new turtles.

Vanessa Zepeda

Vanessa internship in lab Vanessa is originally from the grand state of Arizona and is an intern for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The Astrobiogeochemistry lab (ABC lab) at JPL focuses on the optimization of biomarker and biosignature research and methodology with the overall goal of preparing for Mars Sample Return from the Mars 2020 mission. The field of Astrobiology utilizes interdisciplinary studies to understand the origin and evolution of life on Earth, and then uses these analogs to plan missions for the search of life in the cosmos. At JPL she works with maleimides, which are degradation products of chlorophyl. The unique structure of these biomarkers can be isotopically dated, giving insight on ancient primary production and ecology of ancient seas. Using GC-QqQ-MS, Vanessa, along with her colleagues, have been able to infer not only the ecological interactions taking place in the water column 400 million years ago, but they are able to make inferences on the biogeochemical cycling during this timeframe utilizing the Compound Specific Isotope Analyses (CSIA) of C, N, and H found within the maleimide structure. Working at JPL has been the experience of a lifetime for Vanessa. The amount of scientific collaboration taking place at JPL is absolutely moving. She has made countless connections through networking that are proving to be truly life changing. Her favorite part of interning with JPL was being able to go and see the Mars rover every day during the process of it's assembly. She emphasizes how surreal of an experience it was to see the Mars rover with her own eyes and think about the fact that this technological creation would make its way to Mars one day. The most challenging aspect of her internship was living away from home for 15 weeks. Vanessa says, "Coming to a new place without knowing anyone can be a challenging thing, but it also opens doors for growth, both personally and professionally. Now that I have been here, I think the hardest thing I will have to do is leave JPL. It's just that great of a place!".