Final Internship Report Spring 2002
This spring semester for Environmental Studies 120 I was assigned an internship. Each student selected three internships, one of which would be assigned. The selections were made by the professors of the course, who made their decisions based upon the resumes that students turned in. After the selection process I was assigned my first choice which was “US Army Corps of Engineers: Assist Legal Staff in database for Salmon Feasibility Study.” After being assigned the internship I met with my sponsor, Keri Schenter, and talked to her about what I would be doing, what our goals should be regarding the internship, and when I should work and how long.
After my first meeting with Ms. Schenter I came up with several goals for my
internship. These goals were then emailed to Amy Molitor who is assisting the
professors of Environmental Studies 120 in organizing the internships.
1. Work with the Army Corps of Engineers in helping organize and modify the Lower Snake River Juvenile Salmon Mitigation Feasibility Study (LSRJSMFS).
2. Utilize this internship as a way to better understand human/salmon interactions and their relationship.
3. Use this internship personally to help me better decide whether I would like to enter into environmental law.
What I Actually Did:
On January 17th I turned in my internship resume. The following Tuesday I found out that I had received my first choice internship, which was working with the Walla Walla Army Corps on their salmon database. When I realized that I had gotten my first choice I was really excited. I have lived in Hawaii most of my life, and because of that the environmental concerns that I am familiar with are a lot different than most of the people at this college. For example, I am very used to hearing about the major problem of large mosquito populations in Hawaii that are responsible for the deaths of many native birds through avian malaria, but I am not very well versed in the problem with dams and salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Because of my geographic-induced ignorance I have only just started learning about this major concern regarding salmon since I have come to Whitman. Last semester I took an Environmental Politics course that allowed me to learn a lot about the topic, and also made me very excited to learn more. I was glad that my internship would allow me to see even more perspectives of the salmon/dam issue.
I contacted my sponsor Keri Schenter two days after I had learned what internship
I was doing. We talked on the phone for about fifteen minutes, during which
time I made an appointment to see her the following Monday. On Monday I went
down to the Walla Walla Army Corps and met Keri, along with Janet an environmental
lawyer, and Ron their computer manager. During our meeting Keri told me about
the history of the LSRJSMFS. It is a large study of over 3,000 documents that
has been ongoing for over five years regarding the four dams on the Lower Snake
River and the salmon. After learning about the study I would be working on we
discussed our goals of my internship and how I should go about achieving them.
After that first meeting I have been going down to the Walla Walla Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesdays and Fridays from 1:30-3:30 PM (four hours a week). So far I have done several things such as organize and revise the category list for data spreadsheets, browse the LSRJSMFS and become better versed about the Pacific salmon and dam situation, verify the category and subcategory of specifically selected appendices, and the project that I was last working on was individually going through the first thousand documents of the study and confirming the validity of their information. Although much of the work I have been doing is data modification, it should by no means be confused with brainless data entry work. Everyday when I go into the corps building and work I am able to read many documents and learn new things about the salmon issue. For example, earlier in the semester I read an article regarding water temperatures and how it is affected by the flow of water that is controlled by the dams. Salmon depend on cool water and the article explained that dams might help the salmon because we can regulate how cool the water is by controlling the dams. Interestingly enough, the next article I read that day was completely the opposite. This next article explained how dams create reservoirs of stagnant water that are more inclined to heat up and adversely affect salmon.
The concern regarding the dams and salmon population is incomprehensibly complex and every facet and factor of it will never be able to be taken into account, but I am glad that my internship allows me to see all perspectives regarding this issue and ultimately gives me a larger knowledge on the whole.
Another important feature of my internship was the interactions and discourse that was shared between the biologists and environmental lawyers at the Walla Walla Army Corps. The personal objective that I had going into this internship was that I could use my experiences from it to help me better decide what I want to do with my life. I am a Biology-Environmental Studies major and all throughout high school I was set on having a career involving biology, but recently since I have entered college I have become increasingly interested in a career in law. On strictly a personal level I thought this internship would be perfect to help me decide which path I would want to take. Interestingly enough, my experiences working at the Army Corps has not singled out one specific choice, but instead has turned me on to both science and law. After completing this internship I am strongly thinking about entering into a career of environmental law, through which I can funnel my understanding of biology effectively.
I did really enjoy this internship with the Army Corps of Engineers very much, but just as with anything, there were problems and difficulties involved with it.
First of all, the worst thing about this internship is that by the nature of it there is very little if any fieldwork. The LSRJSFS is almost completed, in fact the Final EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) was just released this February, and because of that the large majority of the work needs to be done on the computer.
The second and last problem that I have encountered in my internship is that sometimes it is a bit boring. Most of the time it is great, but sometimes I end up reading articles and reports that I do not find intriguing or interesting at all. This is an inherent problem probably in all internships though. It is ridiculous to assume you can be captivated at all times during your internship. For the most part though my internship with the Army Corps of Engineers has gone well and I enjoyed it.
Results and Reflections:
After completing my internship I can look back and honestly say that I completed my three goals: to help organize and modify the LSRJSMFS database, to better understand human/salmon interactions, and to use this experience as a personal reference in deciding whether or not I want to enter environmental law.
The aspect of this internship that I most enjoyed is that the work I did constantly evolved. Because of the fact that the salmon database I worked on constantly changed, so too did I have to constantly adapt to it and work on different facets of it. This made my job much more interesting because I never did exactly the same thing any day that I went to work. The most exciting change that has just occurred regarding the study is that the final EIS was just released. This statement has given recommended measures that should be implemented regarding improving salmon conditions, but does not incorporate any plans for breaching the dams. Because of the release of this important statement the Army Corps is anticipating a lawsuit, sooner rather than later. This change in situation resulted in making my internship much more work laden, and also put pressure on me to get it done. I am very glad that I had the opportunity to work on this study at such a vital time involving it.
The structure of this internship was very effective at achieving my objectives, and I am glad that I did it. It allowed me to utilize a huge informational asset regarding salmon, and I would recommend this internship to other students.
(Walla Walla Army Corps of Engineers page regarding the LSRJSMFS)