At every team meeting (where we set our team goals) at Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats, we create news headlines that describe the recent weeks’ events. I felt it was rather appropriate to start off my blog with a similar headline. A starfish? A what? I don’t know what that is. One of the first things I learned at Joppa Flats is that we call them by their real name—a sea star. Contrary to urban legend, a starfish is actually not a fish.
Speaking of sea stars, we find these creatures daily in the tide pools at the Sandy Point State Reservation at Plum Island. In only two weeks at work, I have taken multiple school groups out to the nationally protected wildlife refuge in hopes of discovering amazing organisms in their natural habitat. From kindergarten to high school, hundreds of children come to Joppa Flats daily to learn, discover, and explore. As an intern for the Audubon Society, it is my job to facilitate this learning and exploration of these young scientists to help them make their own scientific discoveries.
The mission of the Massachusetts Audubon Society is one that I am very proud to uphold this summer. We dedicate ourselves to protecting the nature of Massachusetts for both people and wildlife. The wildlife sanctuary at Joppa Flats provides families with clean places for relaxation and recreation, a beautiful backdrop for birding from an observation deck, and a change to learn about the wildlife of the nearby Plum Island (with it’s own marine life touch tanks). In addition to being the largest conservation organization in New England and being a strong advocator for environmental policies, Mass Audubon provides education programs. The summer camps provide children with the opportunity to explore and connect with the natural world while developing their interests for the outdoors.
As a summer camp intern, I will be responsible for teaching children aged 6-12 on environmental awareness, conservation, coastal habitats, and local animals. I will be developing fun science projects using live animals, interactive crafts, and games. This is such a great opportunity because the kids are able to appreciate science with hands-on activities and obtain a valuable education outside of the classroom!
Even though I am in a teaching position, I am finding that I am learning so many valuable skills. I also know that I’m going to continue to learn so much about the ecology, marine biology, and the natural world of the New England coast. I’m already beginning to warn my friends and family that they will never want to go to the beach with me again as I’m sure I’ll never stop blabbering with my extensive knowledge of the local ecology. In addition to science, I am learning so much about the other interns and even learning plenty about myself along the way.
Not only do I care for the natural environment, my favorite part of the job here at Joppa is the work environment! Marine biology has always been something that I have loved. I have never been around such a great group of people who also have this passion (and are willing to have conversations with me about it)! In addition to just being cool and fascinating individuals, the other 8 interns all bring something valuable to our team. We are all from different schools from several states, have a wide diversity of majors and academic interests, all do a wide variety of sports and clubs, and have a varied taste in music (yes, some of the interns even listen to country music all the time!). Yet, although we are all unique, we all have the same passion for the environment, education, and science! Not only are the interns awesome, the summer camp directors/teacher-naturalists that we work with are very welcoming, supportive, insightful, and ENTHUSIASTIC. They send the interns daily emails explaining how great of a job we are doing, are always accepting new ideas from us, and immediately trusted us with so much responsibility with leading school programs. My employers lead by example: their enthusiasm and passion for the job is evident throughout the day and it definitely influences my own work ethic. A perfect example of their characters is that even though they have a very tight budget, they made us write down what gifts they could buy us for $0.25, $0.50, $1, and $5 if we ever need a gift to cheer us up. It’s nice to have people care about me and truly appreciate all of my hard work.
Most importantly, there are other people my age that live every week like it’s shark week! YES! This internship and my fellow interns are really making me realize that marine biology and education are right career paths for me. I wouldn’t be realizing this had it not been for Mass Audubon. I’m very excited to continue to grow this summer and find out more about my love for the marine world and the amazing organization that I am so proud to work for.
Also: LIKE Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center Facebook Page
– Matt Eames ’13