My internship at Deering Estate

Editor’s Note: Originally posted on FIU News

Name: Katherine Saldarriaga

Hometown: Miami, FL

Major: Marine sciences and international relations

Where did you intern? What did you do there? I interned at the Deering Estate, and I worked on a project looking into the relationships endemic birds and migratory birds have on the flora of the estate.

How did you get your internship? I got my internship by replying to an email sent to Global Learning students to get out there and do “A Thing.” Because I enjoy working with the environment, I thought the Tropical Conservation Institute could provide me with that opportunity to become more involved while studying, and actually serving a purpose, all while learning something new. Birding is now a hobby I’ve started to enjoy!

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? I think applying to all internships relevant to one’s major is super important. The only way you’re going to develop skills is just by jumping in and immersing yourself in whatever the internship is going to be about. Honing skills found in these opportunities can aid in the future when you find yourself in a similar situation and you can say, “Oh, I’ve done this before.” It’s about being responsible and passionate about what you want.

What projects did you work on? My project was with our plant-bird relationships. I’m also working towards earning my scuba diving certificate. I am also a part of the Peace Corps Prep at FIU, where I’m working to apply as soon as I graduate.

How did your internship connect back to your coursework? My majors are international relations and marine sciences. I am also working on my certificate in the Portuguese Language and Brazilian Culture Studies. The internship worked with my coursework in biology, focusing on evolution as one of many important factors; and birds are a vital example of how one species of bird can modify entire characteristics of their physical structure, and how adaptable they’ve become. Birds are incredible creatures to demonstrate survival. Being able to go to Deering and capture that amazed me.

What was the coolest thing about your internship or that happened during your internship? The coolest thing I saw at the Deering Estate is just about everything. Since it’s all also spring, and this is mating season, there are manatees that encircle the dock at the estate and hang out. It’s the little things. But being able to walk in a certain environment and then go to another — all within the same estate — was incredible. I had to analyze several sites, and each site has a different environment (palms, sedges, grassy areas or high canopy, large branches on the ground for warbler species that hang closer to the ground, etc.). When I stepped in a specific site, I saw different kinds of birds, their nesting skills, and how they interacted with the environment. Fascinating stuff.

What did you like most about your experience? I liked everything about my internship. Everyone was helpful and knowledgeable about the bird topic, and the area is beautiful and great for birding.

What did you learn about yourself? I learned this takes dedication — and everything takes dedication — but doing something I never thought I’d enjoy and finding out that I do was amazing. There’s so much more in the world to see, including travelling to see those birds that hardcore birders rarely see, I want to be like one of them.

How did the position increase your professional confidence? This position as an intern provided me with a better chance of understanding literature reviews and writing my own reports on scientific methods. I’ve honed this skill of science speaking and observations where I can confidently say that this will help me when I do more reports on studies in other countries as an environmental lawyer.

How did you expand your professional network? I try to send out my resume to just about any environmentally-related organization, group or program that are looking for volunteers or interns. At one point, I started working with my local national park Biscayne National Park.

How did it help you prove yourself in the “real-world?” I think the more connections I make with the environmental field, the more they’re happy to help me dive into the science and the fantastic things our coastal ecosystems here in Florida have to offer. As I learn and expose myself to more of these kinds of opportunities, I am better able to respond to environmental issues and how to help out there.

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