Austin College Environmental Studies Summer Internships
The Austin College Center for Environmental Studies offers competitive summer internships with outstanding environmental organizations that each offer an opportunity to spend part of your summer with a small but nationally known organization that is a recognized leader in its field.
The 2017 application submission deadline is Friday, February 17.
The internship placements are designed to provide a broader perspective on potential environmental careers, a better understanding of the roles and impacts of environmental professionals, a deeper appreciation for the potential of an individual to make a difference, and a unique summer experience that previous interns have found to be both enjoyable and rewarding for their futures in the world of environmental studies.
All Austin College students are eligible to apply for these internships. Any student considering applying should contact Keith Kisselle (x2425) at their earliest opportunity. Internships are typically eight weeks and, with stipends of $3500. Host organizations may prefer 6 or 10 week internships, in which cases the same weekly rate of pay applies. Housing is provided at Little Traverse Conservancy and Bamberger Ranch. Inexpensive housing is available near the Land Institute.
In order to ensure a stimulating and engaging experience, we’ve partnered only with excellent but small host organizations to allow interns to interact closely and thoughtfully with key staff members. We encourage you to learn more about each organization and their focuses by reading the following descriptions and studying the organizations’ websites.
|The Land Institute||Salina, Kansas||Sustainable agriculture||8-10 weeks
|The Little Traverse Conservatory||Harbor Springs, Michigan||Land preservation||8-10 weeks
|Selah, Bamberger Ranch||Johnson City, Texas||Habitat restoration & species recovery||6 weeks|
ROLES OF INTERNS
The Role of Interns at The Land Institute
Student interns gain valuable insight into the perennial grain crop research of The Land Institute. One of the major problems of modern agriculture is that humans get ½ of their calories from annual crops that must be replanted each year (corn, wheat, and rice). The necessary plowing causes tremendous soil erosion, and the fragile seedlings requires huge inputs of fertilizer, pesticides, and energy to fuel tractors. Meanwhile, the shallow-rooted annual grasses are highly sensitive to droughts. If grains instead grew as perennials the annual plowing and planting would become unnecessary and the plants could develop deep roots that impart drought resistance. The Land Institute is the world leader in the brilliant goal of developing perennial crops.
Field work includes sampling, transplanting, and weeding. Interns also participate in seminars with staff and visiting scientists, however, the majority of learning is gained by assisting with the hands-on work of the research programs. While the field work is satisfying, it can also be repetitive and challenging in terms of physical work in hot, dry, and sometimes windy conditions.
Plant Breeding: The Land Institute is trying to develop an agriculture based on perennial grains by: 1) crossing annual crops with perennials, to either bring crop-quality traits to the perennials, or breeding perennialism into the annuals; and 2) domesticating wild perennials. Interns help with hoeing weeds, planting, harvesting, threshing, data collection in the field and laboratory, and data entry. This research, like most scientific research, can be highly repetitive. But most interns have found deep satisfaction in being part of a large, long-term project that aims to transform the way people farm all around the world.
Agro-Ecological Experiments: Several questions are being addressed through experiments that vary plant diversity and functional groups in farm-like systems where multiple species are planted together. For example, experiments that plot perennial grains and legumes together seek to determine the extent to which nitrogen can be supplied to perennial grains as a result of the nitrogen fixation of the legumes. Other plots compare native prairie productivity with that of annual and perennial grains.
The Role of Interns at The Little Traverse Conservancy
The Little Traverse Conservancy protects natural habitats and provides environmental education opportunities to the people of Northern Michigan. The Conservancy owns nature preserves and holds conservation easements on many other properties. A conservation easement is a legal mechanism for restricting the development of private property. Conservation easements enable property owners to protect their land from future development while saving money on taxes. Much of the Conservancy’s effort is devoted to securing additional conservation easements. Conservancy staff members also monitor existing easements, maintain and manage the Conservancy’s preserves, and provide environmental education programs.
Interns spend much of their time helping with preserve stewardship—tending properties the LTC owns and manages for the public. Tasks include: trail maintenance, mowing, boardwalk construction, ecological restoration, vegetation management, and resource assessment.
The Role of Interns at Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve
Selah is a 5,500-acre working Hill Country ranch located south of Johnson City, Texas. While a working ranch with cattle, goats, and scimitar horned oryx (an endangered African antelope), the Preserve is also heavily involved in what they call “People Ranching”. The Preserve offers a large array of land stewardship education opportunities including tours, field days, and workshops focused on demonstrating sound stewardship principles and practices. Selah is one of the largest, privately owned long-term habitat restoration projects in the country and the best example of conservation on private land in Texas.
- assisting with brush clearing and trail maintenance
- assisting with recovery programs for endangered species of plants and animals
- assisting with GPS/GIS mapping
- assisting with current research and other projects
- assisting with guided tours and food service for a wide age range of visitors
Interns spend 6 weeks at Selah. Housing, kitchen facilities, and some meals are provided.
Note: Interns should be comfortable with Microsoft Office, have basic knowledge of good land stewardship principles, be in good health (hiking and some heavy lifting required), and most importantly have a willingness to learn about Mother Nature and how to work with her in order to properly manage the land.
COMMENTS FROM FORMER INTERNS
Kellie Wilcox – The Little Traverse Conservancy
“I strongly recommend the internship at the Little Traverse Conservance. I could not have asked for nicer people, better mentors, or more enjoyable work.”
“My two months in Michigan were, without exaggeration, two of the best months of my life. First of all, Northern Michigan is absolutely beautiful… it really is one of the prettiest areas I’ve ever been to. If you love being outdoors then northern Michigan in the summer is a paradise on earth.”
“Working at LTC was a great experience, the whole staff is friendly, welcoming and helpful and I made some really good friends. The director, Tom Bailey, is renowned across the country for his work in land conservation and he really is an inspiring person.”
”I worked on the Stewardship crew of the organization… About half my time was spent in the office… working on management plans, maps, and a profile of Emmet County. The rest of my time was spent outside marking and clearing trails, constructing and installing signs, and walking preserve boundaries. I also went out on a few children’s programs with the Environmental Education crew. I loved that I got to work outside so much…”
Suzanne Price – Selah, Bamberger Ranch
“My time at the Bamberger Ranch Preserve was the most memorable and educational summer I have ever experienced. I was able to see firsthand what a career in the environmental field demands and what benefits it offers. I was completely immersed into a world where nature was always the topic of discussion. I was exposed to countless people involved with improving our natural environment, and I was able to witness the product of one man’s life long dream of restoring a degraded and deserted piece of land into what is now arguably the healthiest land in the Hill Country. I was moved and inspired to further explore my own interest within the environmental field, hoping to make a difference in someone’s life the way working at the Bamberger Ranch made a difference in mine.”
Alyssa Irlbeck – The Land Institute
“People at The Land Institute are working towards one common goal, creating a sustainable agriculture. Farmers have grown dependent upon large equipment, fertilizers, and heavy irrigation practices. While this seems
to be working at present, many people are concerned with the rapidly approaching future, because most large-scale agricultural practices today are not sustainable. The Land Institute’s goal is to find another, sustainable path.
“As a result of my internship at The Land Institute I was able to contribute to an important research project, learn a great deal about natural systems agriculture, and make friends that I know I will keep for a lifetime.”
RESPONSIBILITIES OF INTERNS
- Hard, diligent, conscientious, full-time work at the host organization for the entire length of the internship. Interns should set an example that will make their host organization eager to welcome future Austin College students.
- Transportation to, from, and at the site. At all three sites it is helpful if you have your own vehicle, but note that The Little Traverse Conservancy does not require a vehicle and can provide you with a bike.
- Housing at the Land Institute is the responsibility of the intern while housing is provided at the other 2 locations.
- Please discuss housing options with Dr. Kisselle when you first inquire about these internships.
- A presentation on your internship during a fall semester Environmental Studies Lunch Forum. The presentation should describe the role of the organization, your role as an intern, and what you gained from the opportunity.
- A letter written to the donor who funds these internships describing your internship and how it was valuable to you.
APPLICATION PROCEDURE, DEADLINES AND CRITERIA
If you have any questions about the internships, the application procedure, or anything else that may be holding you back from applying, please consult Dr. Keith Kisselle at your earliest convenience.
CRITERIA FOR SELECTING NOMINEES TO HOST ORGANIZATIONS
- Evidence of interest in environmental studies
- Enthusiasm for the internship opportunity
- Two written statements (see below)
- Academic record (transcript)
- Note: Your official transcript will be accessed by the selection committee. You do not need to provide one in your application materials.
- Recommenders’ comments regarding academic qualifications and personal characteristics
- Any interviews with environmental studies faculty or (over the phone) host organization staff
- There is a limit of one intern per host organization
- Seniority – In other words, if a junior and a freshman both apply for an internship and both are well qualified we nominate the older applicant because they will not have another opportunity. However, freshman and sophomores should apply. Many freshman and sophomores have held internships.
APPLICATION MATERIALS TO BE SUBMITTED
- The host organization with which you would like to intern. If you are interested in more than one, please rank your preferences.
- Complete mailing address
- An email address that you check daily or almost daily
- Telephone numbers where you can be reached
- Your anticipated date of graduation
- Your major(s) or anticipated major(s)
- Any minor or anticipated minor
- Names of two Austin College faculty members who can comment meaningfully on your academic and personal qualifications (You need not request a letter from these individuals.)
- Written statement #1: Provide a specific and thoughtful description of the nature of your interest in environmental studies. (300 word limit)
- Written statement #2. Explain your understanding of the goals of your preferred host organization and how they relate to your own goals, values, career interests, and interest in environmental studies. Because we can only send one intern to any given host each summer, you should indicate whether you are only interested in working with one of the host organizations, or if more than one would be appealing to you. (300 word limit).
Note: Those who are selected will need to complete a standard college application for employment. You do not need to submit this document with your initial application. If you are not a U.S. citizen you should check with the Human Resources office (AD 211) to confirm your eligibility for employment.
- Friday, February 17 – Application materials are due.
- Friday, February 24 – Environmental Studies Committee nominate candidates to host organizations and notify applicants of decisions.
- Wednesday, March 8 – Deadline for applicant to complete a phone interview with the host organization.
- Friday, March 10 – Applicants notified of the final decisions.
- Friday, March 24 – Applicants asked to confirm their commitment.
- Follow up plans and procedures (housing, payment procedures, transportation, etc) completed by Friday, April 7.