When Rachel Eustis graduated from University of New Orleans with a degree in Environmental Science and Policy she knew she wanted to work outside in a conservation job. She began searching the Internet for the perfect opportunity when she saw an internship at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge on the Wildlife Society website.
“The idea of living and working on a refuge was awesome,” she recalls, “and I had a professor in college who was an invasive species fanatic, so I appreciated that the work would apply to what I had learned.”
For six months, Eustis and fellow intern Jeff Kemper worked half of their time monitoring sea turtle nests and the other half of their time on invasive plants—primarily mapping and controlling Chinese tallow in the coastal Alabama refuge.
Eustis and Kemper used GPS units to collect data on where Chinese tallow grew throughout the refuge. They took this information and downloaded it into software to create maps. These maps were then used to decide on which areas to initially focus control efforts, and to monitor whether the control efforts were effective. “By the end (of the internship) I understood how important the maps were,” said Eustis.
For the last two months of their internship, they focused on controlling the tallow. “We pulled whatever was pullable,” Eustis said, and applied herbicides to the rest. “The first couple of weeks you think you are going to knock it all out,” laughed Eustis, “but it’s an ongoing issue, not something you can get rid of in a few years.”
Eustis said she left her internship with a great experience for her resume because “mapping is an up and coming field.” She also had a summer to remember, “We were really hot and tired at the end of some days, but I really did enjoy every minute of it.”
Learn more about volunteering at this refuge:
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge