By Jennifer Sun and Deborah Barber
When I was in college, The Nature Conservancy had always been one of the top organizations that everyone in my department wanted to work with. Coming from an environmental science-oriented college, I was able to fully connect with TNC's mission and values. Prior to the start of my GLOBE Orientation, I had no idea what to expect. I felt a bit nervous just driving down to Maryland from NYC by myself to begin my new adventures in D.C. and Maryland.
Reflecting back, the orientation was a great opportunity for me to meet other interns and interact with different professionals who work for TNC. I remember the first day of my job when I showed up late, which was kind of embarrassing, because I could not find the office! But luckily, all of the staff were very nice and gave me a warm welcome.
I met my supervisor, Deborah Barber, for the first time during orientation at a hike in Great Falls National Park. Immediately when I saw her in action, I knew that I could learn a lot from her. At the beginning of the internship, she would constantly ask me questions - what I learned from an assignment, or she would say something like, “I noticed you have been recording…or taking notes…” and not just to me, she would ask other colleagues, too. What I noticed about Deborah is that she is a true woman in nature! She is just so excited about everything in nature. When we go out into the field, she seems to know every plant and animal that lives in each preserve. I was so amazed by her knowledge! And if we saw something that we did not know about, she would use her resources and find out the answer, then send me a link about the “unknown species”.
I believe what Deborah wanted me to get out of my work was to have a good time in the field. She always encouraged me to go to different preserves and explore a variety of places. What I loved to do with Deborah was to hike along the trail and discover new places. She has great knowledge and it was always fun to go out with her to learn about different species. During the midterm-evaluation meeting, I felt that I had not achieved my personal goals yet, so I asked her about working with different department members and learning from different people. Her response was very open minded. She was happy to help me to understand the organization as a whole and the relationship between different teams. She encouraged me to network with others in different offices. I was grateful that I had opportunities to work with the people in philanthropy and marketing, and also attended their staff meetings and special outreach events. The audio tour project itself has been great because it allowed me to meet with so many naturalists; it was exciting to learn from them and see their passion and love for the land they protect. I found it comforting that TNC recognizes the importance of preserving the knowledge of naturalists and the organization's goal to try to reach out to a new audience of the younger generation through new technology and innovative ideas. This internship opened my eyes to real world conservation in action and the variety of job fields that function together to support the idea of "One Conservancy."
Jennifer refers to some apprehension about leaving home and heading out to the wilds (and the civilized parts!) of Maryland on her own. In pursuing the goals of her internship, though, she was fearless! We dispatched her to rugged mountains, sloshy swamps, buggy bogs, and sun-soaked marshes to meet with total strangers. She jumped right in to her work, and did a great job capturing and preserving their knowledge for the future.
One time we were exploring a trail together, and I asked Jennifer how she came by her love of nature. She told me her father took her to state and national parks, and they enjoyed them together as a family. I then asked how her family felt about her interest in pursuing a career in conservation, and that yielded a different sort of answer. “They’re not so sure about that, they wonder if I can make a good living.” This gave me something to think about. As the offspring of a theologian/minister father and a bookworm/librarian mother, I always took it for granted that my work must be enjoyable, ethical, and meaningful to me; financial reward is far down on the list of concerns. As a Chapter staffer who has employed GLOBE interns for several years, I understand the value of the GLOBE program measured in “work accomplished”-- in our case, the development of authoritative, engaging audio tours that help us share our preserves with a new, wired generation. I also embrace the idea that bringing new faces and fresh perspectives to our work strengthens the conservation movement, and helps us figure out how best to make our work effective and relevant, far into the future. But beyond that, I didn’t understand until this conversation the important statement that the GLOBE program makes to our interns’ families, and to their communities.
There are all sorts of great jobs in conservation, for all sorts of people. Outdoorsy people and indoorsy people; people who love raising money and people who’d rather not think about it; people who work with their muscles, and people who work with their minds; people whose work involves on-the-ground doing, and people whose work involves motivating others to do. And, everyone in between.
By placing interns within one program and giving them structured opportunities to network with other programs, GLOBE gives interns and the communities from which they come a great overview of the many career choices within the Conservancy. That sends a powerful message of welcome and opportunity to the communities that we want to better engage our work.
Visit our audio tours page to enjoy Jennifer’s work!