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Interning for Citizen Science at the NCMNS

December 12, 2015

This post is brought to you by Kylie Piper, current intern for citizen science based at Prairie Ridge Ecostation.  Kylie is currently a junior at NCSU and is pursuing a degree in environmental science.  She is also active in the ROTC and plans to go into the Army once she graduates. 

intern with monarch

Kylie Piper, Fall 2015 intern for citizen science/Prairie Ridge

Most college students have to participate in an internship to fulfill their degree requirements but finding something that you’re passionate about doing can be challenging. You want something that’s interesting, something that’s going to push you, something that’s going to teach you more about your field of study. Thankfully for me, I found all of that with a citizen science internship at Prairie Ridge through the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science.

I am a Junior at NC State pursuing an environmental science degree and interning at Prairie Ridge has given me hands on experience and insight on environmental science career opportunities. I got to work with many different citizen science programs where I learned a lot about biology, entomology, environmental science, and how to educate the general public on these subjects. Prairie Ridge is a great space for learning at all ages because of its ponds, stream, many nature trails, the outdoor classroom, the Nature Playspace, and most importantly, its many citizen science programs designed and run by the staff. The wonderful staff was very welcoming and knowledgeable; they were happy to include me in their projects and were always sharing their knowledge with me. They made this internship worthwhile because they took every opportunity to teach me about something new and gave me opportunities to lead citizen science programs.

One program I was fortunate enough to be a part of is called Nature Stories. Every Thursday a group of volunteers and employees gathers in the Nature Playspace amphitheater to read books about nature and then have some fun with activities designed to explain the concepts discussed. The program is tailored to engage young children and foster their interest for the world around them. We start the program by introducing ourselves and invite guests to greet their neighbors with a fun motion. For example on the day we learned about earthworms we greeted our neighbors by wiggling like worms. After our nature inspired greetings, we sing a song, read an interactive story, and then go out and play with the things we’ve learned about. One nature story was dedicated to wind and after the story we flew kites and let seeds float away in the wind. This program was especially rewarding for me because I got to be a part of something that inspires children to explore the world we live in and to develop an appreciation for it. Watching children come to understand what it means to be nocturnal or to see and identify the signs of fall was very exciting and inspirational to me because I got to share my love of the environment with young children and see their interest grow as well.

There were many other projects that I got to be a part of while interning at Prairie Ridge and each one was a learning experience. Each month I got to help move the camera traps that snap pictures of the wildlife. In doing this I had some run-ins with poison ivy and the notorious fire ants but I also got to see the Coyotes the cameras caught and even the Flying Squirrel! I’ve especially learned a lot about bugs at Prairie Ridge and I got a lot of hands on work with them as well. We’ve caught ladybugs for data collection, caught and tagged monarch butterflies, and I got to work the Dragonfly Detectives table at BugFest. I learned a lot about aquatic species as well by getting the chance to work with some very intelligent Raleigh Charter High School students who come out and collect samples of the pond water for a research project they’re doing with their mentor.

A lot of learning came from nature walks and exploring the grounds because it seemed that each time there was a species of plant or animal that was new and interesting to me. This was inspiration for the museum blog writings I’ve done throughout the semester. I got to explore Prairie Ridge and see what new things were happening to the environment as the seasons changed and there were always lots of interesting species. I would pick one, research it, and write about it. Most of the species I wrote about are native to North Carolina and that’s because Prairie Ridge was designed to include many of the species of plants that can be found all around the state.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to intern at the Prairie Ridge Ecostation, I’ve gained knowledge and experience about the environmental science field and I had a great time doing it. I have gained valuable experience through this internship and I would highly recommend it to other students looking to further their education and understanding of the natural sciences. It’s a great place to intern but also a place for all ages to learn and explore. There are many volunteer opportunities and citizen science programs to get involved in and many trails to explore. This is a place that I really enjoy and I’m excited to keep coming back!

Thanks for all your help this semester, Kylie!  We appreciate all the amazing work you did.  The Museum’s citizen science program and Prairie Ridge have both benefitted greatly from your time with us.

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