What did you accomplish with your host organization? What was the impact of your work?
This summer my internship with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) required me to produce a report on important fish stocks that are likely to, or are in the process of, shifting across Exclusive Economic Zones. I was able to synthesize research on the characteristics of successful transboundary agreements for shared natural resources and summarize case studies of historical instances of past successes or failures. This report will be used as an internal document for EDF projects working in areas of concern—for example the Humboldt Current in South America and the Mid-Atlantic United States. I was also able to participate in some discussions of other interns’ work, namely research on seaweed production and markets.
Describe the benefits of this experience for you professionally and personally?
The biggest benefit of working with the EDF is probably the networking opportunities they provide. It was clear that EDF values their summer interns (apart from just the work we produce) and it was encouraged for us to network with one another (lots of virtual games and ‘hangouts’) as well as with EDF staff. Any time I had a question about a part of my research, my supervisor was almost always able to set up a meeting with an EDF staff who was able to answer my questions. EDF staff was also happy to answer questions I had about professional development and their professional trajectory. These conservations were extremely helpful as I think about my last year at MIIS and my future career.
While I would have loved to be in person and work with the San Francisco team, there were also benefits to working remotely. Working from my home in Monterey allowed me to save a lot of money, and even keep my part-time waitressing job, all of which has helped me pay off school, debt-free. I was also able to continue some of my favorite hobbies in the area, enjoy the summer on the central coast, and do some traveling.
From a research perspective, I found my research in environmental conflict to be an avenue I would like to learn more about, as well as my work helping the Seaweed team with their projects.
Did your experience provide any unexpected discovery, self-reflection, or epiphany?
Working from home was not always easy. I had several times throughout this internship when I questioned if I wanted to do policy-based work that would require me to sit at a desk starring at a computer for 8 hours a day. I began to crave hands-on, practical work. I brought this up several times to my intern supervisor and the staff members I was able to interview, and they assured me that most likely everyone was feeling this type of burn-out, in some way, but also encouraged me to think outside the box of what I wanted to do and the type of work that gave me the most joy. In my past professional experiences, I think I took for granted the joy I get from working with stakeholders and communities directly. In the future, instead of researching climate change and how warming waters are affecting fish globally, I would be more inclined to do in-depth, community-based research on a particular region.
Additionally, as someone who loves to write, I thought that writing my final report would be my favorite part of the internship, instead, I found myself more drawn to data work, including playing around with GIS and R studio, which gave me some creative reprise from reading and writing all day. Writing the report was actually the part of the internship and deliverable I struggled with the most, in terms of maintaining motivation.