By Shay Seibring – Student Conservation Intern, Summer 2023

First time wearing waders and muck boots! Spraying purple loosestrife – an invasive plant. (Photo credit – Katelyn Bava)

There are experiences that normal people will just never have. Landing on the moon, eating dinner with the president, or taking a selfie on top of Mt. Everest; are just a few of these lifetime experiences. But there are also smaller and not-so-crazy experiences people are missing out on that may be right at their fingertips. Before this Summer Student Conservation Internship, based out of the Newton County Soil and Water Conservation District, I would not have even known it was possible to band geese or wood ducks. In the field of conservation, these tasks are just a part of the job. Coming from someone without much of an agricultural and outdoorsy background, a lot of these experiences are new for me. 

Muck boots? I knew the concept and what they were used for but not the name. Or waders? I knew what they were, but I had never been in the situation to wear them. But now here I am! Sitting in a boat with waterproof overalls called waders and water-proof rubber boots called muck boots. We are out spraying invasive species. I know what invasive species are and have seen them before, but it is my first time out in the field combating them. Invasive species are species that get introduced to a new environment and eventually become overpopulated and cause harm to the native species in that environment. This is a new experience for me, and I would say it would be a new experience for a lot of people. 

A more common experience that a lot of people have done is fishing. Believe it or not, I had not been fishing before! Although traditional rod and reel fishing is not done much on the job, I experienced passive fishing with trap and gill nets for the first time! At first, I was feeling queasy about it. I had to pick the fish that were in the gill nets out. When they swim through they get caught by their gills and are tangled up. Fish scales were everywhere! But thinking back, I realize it was definitely very interesting to be able to experience something like that with DNR. Being able to help out with surveys and important tasks that help conservation is very fulfilling. 

A BioBlitz or Earth Night! Even the names sound exciting. Before this internship I would not have even known such important events take place in our county. A BioBlitz is an event organized by the Indiana Academy of Science in which scientists and specialists survey an area and record as many of the living things in it as they can find in 24 hours. I got to be on the Macroinvertebrates team to learn about insects in their nymph and larval stages, snails, worms, crayfish, and clams that spend at least part of their lives in water that play a large role in freshwater ecosystems by recycling nutrients as well as providing food to higher trophic levels. Earth Night is also another important event I got to help with for the first time. It is a night at the county fair dedicated to outreach and teaching kids about the importance of conservation and our environment. Being able to be apart of these events and learn as well as teach some important things was exciting. 

Through this summer of firsts, I have learned just how important and fun the field of conservation can be. I have met so many new amazing people who specialize and work in different fields, all relating to conservation. These people have helped me understand this field so much better. As well as expanding my interests and helping me pinpoint what I would like to do for my future. These people have taught me many valuable professional lessons too. Throughout this internship, there were ups and downs, but everyone was very understanding, and I believe I have come out of this with many new friends and experiences that will help me down the road. I hope that many other students will consider applying to be a Newton County Student Conservation Intern and experience the same firsts I did!

Attending a BioBlitz! Looking at macroinvertebrates for the first time!
(Photo credit – Bri Styck)

 First time attending and working Earth Night!
(Photo credit – Bri Styck)

 My first time posing with a fish!
(Photo credit – Tom Bacula)

Shay Seibring is a 2023 graduate of South Newton Highschool. She will be attending University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign this fall. She intends to major in Environmental Science.

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