Contact: Bonnie Strawser - 252-473-1131
February 8, 2007
Refuge Interns Gain Valuable Wildlife and Life Experience
Photo credit: Carolina Raptor Center
Pea Island intern Brian Kidd releases a newly banded peregrine falcon while assisting the Carolina Raptor Center in its work on Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
Refuge internships offer invaluable wildlife experience for those looking to get their feet wet!
Drive along NC highway 12 between Oregon Inlet and Rodanthe at any given time and there are some people you’re more than likely to see: surfers, birders, photographers, and fishermen, just to name a few. There’s probably some there though you’re not as likely to see: Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge’s resident volunteer interns, the refuge’s unsung heroes.
Throughout the year, Pea Island Refuge hosts a wide variety of interns- usually soon-to-be or recent college graduates- for a period of time anywhere from 12 weeks to 6 months. These interns assume many of the responsibilities associated with the day-to-day operation of a refuge. “I get to wear many hats,” says current Pea Island intern Brian Kidd. “That’s one of the aspects I like most about being an intern. It keeps things interesting and strengthens your resume. When you perform the same job everyday, a lot of times you lose sight of the bigger picture. But here at Pea Island, in the span of just one day I can go from being biological technician to canoe tour leader to IT tech to maintenance staff. It really helps you get a better sense of just what all it takes to keep a refuge running.”
Interns are housed on the refuge, and thanks to the Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society, are granted a bi-weekly food stipend. The most common duties performed by interns include monitoring sea turtle nests, mowing the grass, keeping locks well-oiled in the salty air, and leading interpretive programs such as canoe tours and marsh walks. These are only listed as the most common because they’re the chores which happen on any sort of a regular basis. More often than not interns find themselves working on special projects. For instance, in October, the Carolina Raptor Center sent a team to Pea Island to study fall migratory patterns. Brian Kidd describes working with them. “As an intern I was able to work closely with the (Carolina) Raptor Center team and assist in their duties. This opportunity provided me with a crash course in hawk identification. I was also fortunate enough to see up close many different raptor species by assisting in the capture and release process. The captured raptors were all tagged with identification bands that will be used to track their movements.” Other special opportunities for interns have included overnight trips to the Edenton National Fish Hatchery to assist in fish stocking operations; educational visits to area schools; and participation in Wings Over Water, the southeast’s premier birding and wildlife festival. Opportunities such as these broaden the experience of being an intern even more.
Being a volunteer intern at Pea Island is a full time job, and because the interns live on the refuge, it’s a job that doesn’t end with the departure of the day’s last visitor. Intern Brian Kidd recalls, “I never know exactly what I’m going to be doing on any given day. Loggerhead sea turtles don’t seem to heed the refuge’s daylight use only policy. Wildlife can happen at any time. Living on a refuge does have its perks though. There are very few places left in the continental US where you can live on an island rent-free and your closest neighbor is 7 miles away. It helps put the world in perspective. Sometimes the solitude is a welcome bit of peace in an often times much too busy world, but other times it can also be the biggest challenge to living on the island. You have to find ways to entertain yourself, but it never ends up being that difficult.” Pea Island’s miles of beaches and well protected marshes are ideal for watersports, fishing, photography, exploration, or just relaxing. Living at Pea Island can also be trying at times. “What’s hardest” says Brian, “are the times when you just feel like ordering a pizza but then realize the nearest pizza-making establishment has closed for the season. Not that that matters of course, since they wouldn't deliver to the Refuge anyhow.”
It’s about the experience
“At times the work can seem challenging, but in the end it’s just simply rewarding to know you’re doing such a great service,” says Brian. “The whole experience of living on your own in the midst of all the wildlife is humbling.”
Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is now accepting applications for summer and fall ’07 internships. If you are interested in applying please send a resume, cover letter, and contact information of three references to: Ann Marie Chapman, P.O. Box 1969, Manteo, NC 27954. Or email Ann Marie at: AnnMarie_Chapman@fws.gov.