Thursday, March 15, 2012

USFWS Internship & Mentoring Programs

Zach Moore
Greetings!  My name is Zach Moore and I am a fisheries and outreach intern with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Lacey, Washington. This internship is in conjunction with The Evergreen State College, where I am a sophomore focusing on environmental science & education. While my college coursework has been essential in preparing me for a career in my focus areas, the importance of resume-building professional experience cannot be overemphasized. The Evergreen State College provides its students with credit-earning opportunities for gaining this type of experience. For example, the “Citizen Science: Ecoliteracy” class that I am currently taking actually requires at least 80 hours of internship work. So when the USFWS posted an internship opportunity this past fall, I jumped on it.

This internship has already provided me with top-notch experience in both of my college focuses. For environmental education, I have had a lot of opportunities to work in classrooms with students, including visits to Onalaska High School, Reeves Middle School, Mill Creek Elementary, and a field trip with Timberland High School students to Tolmie State Park. During these events, I assisted with classroom presentations and fish dissections. It has been great interacting with these future natural resource stewards and their enthusiasm been nothing short of contagious.

Zach with weir panel
For the environmental science component, one highlight was assisting with the Elwha River weir project. A fish weir is a tool that is used to capture, count, and study fish populations. It is like a fence that spans across the river directing migrating salmon and steelhead into a trap box. We made two separate multi-day trips to Port Angeles to repair the weir panels and then install the weir in the river. It was great to be able to get in a dry suit, slap a snorkel on my face, and dive in the Elwha River to install the panels I had previously repaired. The visibility in the river was less than 6 inches during the days I was working and installing the panels which proved to be both challenging and rewarding. It was awesome to have the opportunity to assist with this historic project. Now that the dams are being removed, this fish weir will help document how the salmon and steelhead respond to having access to the upper Elwha River once again.

Zach and USFWS biologist installing weir panel
This rewarding experience has motivated me to pursue a full quarter-long internship with the USFWS this spring. Instead of averaging 10 hours a week like I did this past winter quarter, I will be working 30-40 hours a week and gaining far more experience. I will be leading my own classroom curriculum and gaining experience in a variety of field projects including electrofishing, screw trapping for outmigrating salmon, and Olympic mudminnow sampling . . . all of this while earning college credits! This sort of experience will really pay off when it’s time to compete for paid positions. 

For a video explaining the Elwha River weir project (including installation and sampling footage), visit:


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