Tuesday, March 5, 2013

USFWS Internship - Working on the Elwha River Restoration Project

Sarah Gabel
Greetings! My name is Sarah Gabel and I’m a biology major at Saint Martin’s University and an intern for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). I began pursuing internship opportunities last fall in order to gain field and lab experience and exposure to the application of scientific research and methods in a professional setting, as well as to bolster my resume. The USFWS offered an opportunity associated with the Elwha River restoration project which appealed to me because of the lab experience and focus on the environment, a branch of biology I’ve had an interest in. I have often enjoyed going fishing, camping, hiking, kayaking, biking, and partaking in various other outdoor activities which have given me a strong interest in nature and a desire to learn more about it.

The Elwha River restoration project is a study of how the deconstruction of the Elwha Dam is affecting the fine sediment concentrations in salmon spawning habitat. Data will be used to monitor changes in the quality of salmon spawning habitat during and following dam removal. This data will be important for understanding factors limiting salmon recovery in this system. My lab work includes filtering water samples, burning off the organic material, and measuring the difference in order to determine how much fine sediment is being added to the spawning gravels in the river. It’s an interesting process observing the differences between the samples taken before and after deconstruction of the dam. It has been a great learning experience for me and has given me the chance to practice lab techniques in a professional environment while earning college credits toward my degree.
Filtering a water sample
In addition to developing my lab skills and understanding of the Elwha River restoration project, I find it exciting to have the opportunity to provide needed support for this important research project studying the effect of human activities on the environment. It is our responsibility to make sure that our actions do not disturb the ecosystem; projects such as this help to sustain the environment for the use and enjoyment of generations to come. This internship opportunity has piqued my interest in this field of work and I am now considering pursuing a career in biological research.

Placing samples in drying oven

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