Hi, my name is Pierce Lawrence. Currently, I am a junior in the Environmental Sciences program with a focus in sustainable energy. This summer I was able to participate in the YAIO (Youth Advocacy and Involvement Office) internship program which operates through the North Carolina State Government System. Fortunately, I was one of 94 interns selected from a group of 478 applicants.
The department which I worked under for the summer was the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management. In particular, I was assigned to work at the North Carolina Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve which is located in Beaufort, NC. The main purpose of the reserve is to be set aside for education, research and stewardship. Consequently, I was able to work closely with the education coordinator, sites manager as well as the research coordinator to learn how all three of these aspects play a role in coastal management decisions within the government of North Carolina.
When looking at the education aspect of the reserve, I had the pleasure of working with a very talented and enthusiastic education coordinator. I saw first-hand how the public plays a major role in participating in activities and programs that equip them with the knowledge of what takes place at the reserve. Being able to assist with these programs provided me with a direct link between the public and government. Thus, knowledge of studies that are taking place within our office was directly translated to information that was presented to the public.
Land management and research are major drivers in the amount of information gathered to make coastal management decisions. As a result, I was able to see and take part in the copious hours of field work that goes into ecological and coastal studies. For those who aren’t familiar with the Rachel Carson Reserve or estuaries in general, an essential mechanism of a healthy salt marsh is a healthy shore line. To help understand these shorelines, I was able to help conduct marsh monitoring surveys across different areas of Carteret County. During the survey we take note of what type of vegetation is growing and the percent coverage of each. This information plays a major factor in helping combat sea-level rise on the Eastern seaboard.
In addition to shoreline erosion surveys, another major aspect of the reserve is the upkeep of the bird population. Maintaining a healthy rookery for the different bird species found on the reserve requires careful management and surveying techniques. One of the birds that is of special interest to researchers is the American Oystercatcher. During our survey we would carefully assess the marsh and take note of any Oystercatchers by marking down the GPS coordinates of their location, nest size as well as number. Conducting this survey is part of a larger effort, along the U.S. eastern seaboard, to standardize data collection methods for looking at oystercatcher populations.
In all, my experience this summer helped give me a new perspective towards my focal area and future career plans. Working at the coast was unbelievable and I absolutely loved it. I discovered that I have a passion for working in the field, conducting sustainable research and being involved with land/resource management. Thus, I hope to pursue a career in environmental planning. The professionals working within Government of North Carolina were high caliber and made for great mentors. I would recommend the YAIO Internship Program to anyone at NC State; especially ES students.