Conservation internships available to NIU students

By Michael Berg

NIU students interested in conservation and the environment have the opportunity to work in national parks and forests this year through an internship program.

The Student Conservation Association (SCA) is offering internships to college students who want to work as resource assistants.

“(Volunteers) work in a variety of different disciplines,” said Lesley Sullivan, SCA recruitment director. “The majority of people selected from universities have taken classes in natural resources, history, archaeology, language … It’s varied.”

Sullivan said the organization looks for people who have a willingness and commitment to work in conservation and like dealing with other people.

Some of the duties performed by resource assistants include visitor assistance, research and preservation.

“For example, (resource assistants) who work in wildlife refuges may gather nest eggs of offspring or test pollution levels in the water,” Sullivan said. “Some do back-country hiking, like in Yosemite, to check on campers.”

Sullivan said she worked at the Grand Canyon in visitor assistance. “I opened up the visitor center and took people on walks, telling them about the history, archaeology, etc., of the canyon.”

Some resource assistants work on historical site preservation projects, such as Lincoln’s home in Illinois, Sullivan said. Others can work on putting together archaeological digs and cataloging artifacts.

Volunteers in the 18 years and older program receive a grant for round-trip transportation to their program area, a weekly stipend for living expenses and free housing.

Sullivan said volunteers received both mental and physical benefits from the experience. “It’s mostly a personal experience,” Sullivan said. “You’re living in simple surroundings and you return to the land and get in touch with inner thoughts. That’s the spiritual aspect.”

On a practical level, people get skills in research and public speaking for jobs down the road, she said.

The program runs 12 weeks and positions are available throughout the year. To be eligible for summer positions, applications should be turned in by March 15.

Applications are available by calling SCA at (603) 543-1700 and asking for a resource assistant catalog.