Like many college seniors, I have some anxiety about graduation. Where do I look for a job? What do professionals in the field really do? How do I gain relevant experience? These are just some of the questions that many college seniors struggle with.
The summer internship I worked in KCI’s Natural Resources department was a tremendous help in making positive strides toward answering those questions. This internship offered me ample opportunity to interact with and question industry leaders in the office and in the field, a diverse array of responsibilities and learning opportunities, all while earning a nice paycheck to boot.
When I arrived on my first day of my internship I was welcomed by vice president of Natural Resources James Deriu. He showed me around the office and introduced me to some of the Natural Resources staff. I was given my own cubical with laptop, monitor, and phone. KCI also purchased me a pair of waders that would be essential in natural resources field work. KCI’s internship orientation was extensive. Many of my fellow interns were flown into Maryland to attend the orientation at a hotel near the Sparks office. During the orientation, we were treated to presentations given by administration, practice and project leaders. Presentations focused on KCI history, the business of consulting, what is an ESOP, the role of each of KCI’s divisions, and tips for success. KCI also provided food, networking opportunities, and a tour of the Sparks office.
After the orientation, my time as a Natural Resources intern in the Sparks office can be split into three parts: office work, field work, and lab work. Office work consisted of general office tasks. I offered assistance where staff was crunched for time or tight on budget. These tasks consisted of everything from maintaining photo logs from the field, printing maps and plans of assorted sizes, data entry, research, and deliveries. KCI also paid for me to take an training course to improve my skills in ArcGIS. The office atmosphere is friendly and inviting. Staff are always willing to help and going the extra mile seems to be the standard. If there was one thing I found that everyone at KCI had in common, it’s that they all really like working at KCI.
In the field, I participated in three major types of work: electrofishing, geomorphic surveys, and chemical monitoring. Electrofishing is used to monitor what species of fish exist in a stream. The type of biota present gives insight on habitat and water quality. It is usually done before or after a stream restoration. This is neat because it gives the chance to assess the effectiveness of various restoration techniques. Geomorphic surveys are surveys employed to assess how a streams morphology changes over time. These consisted of a survey of the water channel, recording water depth, collecting sediment sample records from various parts of the stream, and point bar samples. Finally, chemical monitoring consists of collecting water samples from streams and auto samplers, downloading auto sampler data, and collecting bedload samples from buckets buried in streams. Lab work was usually done in direct support of field work. For example, storm samples collected from auto samplers must be filtered in the lab before being sent out for further chemical testing.
The diversity of tasks I worked on offered me ample opportunity to challenge myself and grow, yet KCI’s helpful staff was always accessible if I needed any help. During the summer internship for the Natural Resources division at KCI, I worked with wonderful people, gained valuable experience in the office and in the field, and earned a paycheck too. I don’t think I could have asked for a better experience. I may still be nervous about graduating and starting my career, but after my internship at KCI, I am also feeling prepared for whatever opportunities come my way.