Meet our Summer 2023 Interns
North Carolina Coastal Reserve & National Estuarine Research Reserve

This past summer, the reserve had four outstanding interns. They contributed to our mission and learned a lot along the way. Below they each share a bit of advice or memories from their experience.

Author: Jillian Daly, NC Coastal Reserve Communications Specialist

Read on to learn about our 2023 summer interns, their advice to future interns, and if they'd recommend this internship to others! Watch their interviews here:

Caitlin Mahnke, Education intern

Education intern, Caitlin, points out a fiddler crab burrow to a young summer camper.

Caitlin grew up in Carteret County and recently graduated from Carteret Community College with her associate's degree. This fall, she started as a student at UNCW majoring in biology. This past summer, she interned with our Education Coordinator, Lori Davis, at the NC Coastal Reserve’s office in Beaufort.  She heard about the Reserve’s education internship through her school. As soon as it showed up in her email, she immediately knew she was going to go for it. She felt it was the perfect opportunity to experience the educational side of science, and would help her decide whether she wants to pursue research or education! She’s enjoyed “teaching kids and learning how to apply different science teaching activities to different age groups.”

What has been your favorite part of your internship?

“I love being able to tell people new things that shock them, so taking people on field trips and pointing things out to them they didn't know, might be my favorite thing about my internship experience.” During a field trip with a group of third graders, while walking through the marsh on the reserve, one student in the group picked up almost everything and asked Caitlin if she could eat it. Since some plants on the reserve are actually edible, Caitlin had the opportunity to tell the young student yes. Moments like this, when Caitlin sees how excited kids get about flora and fauna on the reserve, are the highlight of her summer.

Emily Gillikin, Stewardship Intern

Stewardship intern, Emily, sits on a boat in the marsh

Emily is a student at Appalachian State University. Though she loves the mountains, she was thrilled for the opportunity to be by the water. This internship provided amazing opportunities to show her what her future could look like. One of the most important skills she learned is her boating skills. “I’ve gotten much better with the opportunity to drive, complete my safety course, and practice my skills in a real setting.” This internship supported her dreams to be a wildlife biologist.

What was your most memorable experience this summer?

“The day I saw the baby foal born at the Reserve. The morning was meant to be spent washing the boat, but Paula Gillikin, my intern supervisor, ran out to the dock. All of a sudden, we were going out on an adventure to find the new foal! We were pulling up to the reserve at all these different spots and were jumping off the boat trying to find the foal, and we finally found it! That was a great day.”

Gabriella Ballestas, NOAA Hollings Scholar

Intern Gabriella holds three sea turtle eggs with a gloved hand.

Gabriella is a student at Clarkson University and her internship focused on Spanish language outreach. Research is her big passion and she wants to be a research biologist when she grows up. “I love getting to be involved in science equity, and doing this internship has broadened the horizons of what research means to me. This internship has allowed me to sharpen my language skills because I’ve been working on Spanish translations throughout the months that I’ve been here.” She has also gained experience setting up professional partnerships and engaging in community outreach!

What has been your favorite experience during this internship?

“My favorite experience has been going to all the different sites and looking at all the nature trails and seeing where the work I'm doing translating signage will be going.”

Passion See, Stewardship and Research Intern

Passion See, in the field helping with water quality research.

“My name is Passion See. I’m a student at Carteret Community College here in Morehead City, NC.  Lori actually took my class on a field trip when I went to Newport Elementary a while back (2011!). So it’s pretty cool to see it come full circle and take the other kids out on a field trip!” Passionate about science, in particular biology, being the stewardship and research intern offered Passion insight into what the research field entails. Attending meetings as well as working in the field, Passion learned some facilitation techniques as well as learning how to drive a boat. Both skills she feels will be helpful in her future career!

What does a typical day look like during this internship?

“Getting there at 8 AM, sitting down to have a conversation about what we will do that morning, and having some bonding moments with the team. Then we go out on the boat and get to work until about lunch. Then we head back in and I do some follow-up work at my desk.”

A particularly memorable day for Passion was going out to excavate oysters with our Research Coordinator, Justin Ridge. She got stuck in knee-deep mud, (a common danger of the marsh!) and had to have help pulling herself out. Her boots were left stuck in the mud!

Would you recommend this internship to others?

Emily: Yes, a 100 times yes! I get to learn and have so many new experiences and figure out what I do and don’t like to do!

Passion: Oh definitely. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You’ve got to try it.

Caitlin: I would 100% recommend this internship to others, if you like being outside or even if you don't like being outside, that's ok. If you like kids, yes. If you like animals and plants, yes. It's been an amazing experience!

Advice to future interns:

Passion: Take it all in and try to have a good time while you're doing it. It's hot but you'll get through it.

Gabriella: Be organized. Don't leave everything to the end or try to get ahead on your work because an internship is shorter than what you think it's going to be.

Caitlin: Everything that you’re asked, any experience that you’re asked to complete, do it. I was supposed to work with the education coordinator the entire time, but any time the site manager would ask me to do something with her and her interns, I would say yes. I’ve gotten to drive the boat which is super neat. I’ve also gone out with different people and learned what they do, and those may have been some of the best experiences along with my education internship experience!

Emily: Have an open mind and be prepared to do anything, even if it doesn't sound fun or look fun, just do it and try stuff out even if you don't like it. It is always good to get new experiences. 


Related Topics: