More Than Just a Summer Job
Interns gain professional experience while expanding the capacity of our conservation work across Delaware.
This article was updated on September 29, 2020.
Summer internships for some college students mean coffee runs, making copies and filing. Not at The Nature Conservancy in Delaware, where our interns provide essential support to staff and programs, expanding the capacity of our conservation work across the state.
Whether they are serving as stewardship assistants on our preserves or in the role of the Delaware River Watershed Fellow—working with the Stream Stewards program and First State National Historical Park in Wilmington—our interns help advance our mission in Delaware.
Charlye Stewart served as the 2020 AWE Fellow for TNC and First State National Historical Park. She is a senior at the University of Delaware where she is majoring in Wildlife Conservation with a minor in Integrated Design.
Connecting People to the Watershed
During the summer of 2020, Charlye Stewart served in the role of Delaware River Watershed Fellow as part of the Alliance for Watershed Education (AWE). As one of 23 AWE Fellows working on outreach and education efforts in the Delaware River watershed, she helped educate residents of Wilmington about recreational opportunities and resources in First State National Historical Park.
Discussions about the Brandywine Creek—a treasured resource that provides a cool place to swim on a hot summer day, a place to go fishing with friends, and perhaps most importantly, the source of Wilmington’s drinking water—led to a greater awareness of the need to protect our watersheds and natural resources.
“Visting both the park and creek throughout the summer, I took time to speak to local park-goers to get a sense of direction for my capstone project,” said Charlye. She was able to meet with local high school students over the summer as well, to hear perspectives from local youth. “I even had the opportunity to work alongside students from Delaware Green Jobs [high school interns] and teens from ‘The Warehouse’ in Wilmington to further build on the project,” she added.
Restoring Habitat: Brandywine Shad 2020
Another exciting aspect of Charlye’s internship was her involvement with the Brandywine Shad 2020 initiative. This local group is working to remove old dams and increase fish passages for migratory fish like American shad and eels.
These species spend most of their life in the ocean but swim upstream into freshwater creeks and rivers to lay their eggs each summer. Dams installed since Colonial times have greatly reduced the populations of these fishes that once provided abundant food sources for Native Americans and early settlers.
A recent dam removal near the Brandywine Zoo has allowed American shad to access portions of the creek that have been inaccessible to them for hundreds of years. How do we know that the fish traveled upstream of the old dam?
Researchers from the University of Delaware along with members of Brandywine Shad 2020 joined volunteers, including Charlye and Stream Stewards Project Manager Kim Hachadoorian, to conduct a shad survey in July. During the fish survey they caught 158 juvenile shad and three adults at the base of the next dam on the Brandywine.
After reflecting on her work with Charlye over the summer, Kim noted the continued importance of programs like the AWE Fellows which engage young people and help build their skill sets. Kim remarked, “Charlye’s experience highlights the importance of providing internships and building career pathways for the next generation of conservation leaders to ensure that we have a just and equitable future where people and nature can thrive together.”
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