Students Learn the Practice of Science, and Scientists Further their ResearchInternship Programs at the USGS Center in St. Petersburg, Florida
Various internship programs at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Florida Integrated Science Center (FISC) office in St. Petersburg offer benefits to all. When the USGS chose St. Petersburg 20 years ago as the site for its new marine-science field center, proximity to local marine-science colleges and universities was a key criterion. Since establishment of the center in 1989, student internship programs have played a critical role in the USGS research agenda. Many interns have gone on to research careers of their own and often speak warmly of their days at the bottom of the USGS totem pole.
Recently, a new type of internship was begun, inspired by completion of the third USGS building on the University of South Florida (USF) St. Petersburg campus. Both USGS and USF staff occupy the shared facility. The new internship program has a different model from that of the long-established internships. Initiation of this new program is a good time to review the various internship opportunities available at the St. Petersburg center.
USGS-USF St. Petersburg Internship Program
The new internship program is conducted in cooperation with the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Geography (ESP&G) at USF St. Petersburg. The program is unusual in several ways. It is available during the academic year, and students must complete an academic report at the end of each term outlining what they accomplished during their time in the program. This effort requires planning by both the student and the mentoring scientist. The USF coordinator approves the student reports, and the students, upon completion of all requirements, receive academic credit for their participation. Furthermore, because the USF Environmental Science, Policy, and Geography Department includes a policy component, it allows students to intern in areas outside the traditional field- and laboratory-based sciences.
The new program began during the past academic year with two interns: Joe Boyle, working with USGS sponsor Lisa Robbins; and Adis Muslic, working with USGS sponsor Kristine DeLong. Initial feedback has been extremely positive. Robbins said, "It has just been fantastic. Joe is a hard worker and has immersed himself in the data. We are all learning a lot. The promising start to the program seems to be a good foundation for a sustained cooperative effort."
USGS/USF Cooperative Assistantships
The USGS/USF Cooperative Assistantship program has been one of the USGS St. Petersburg center's staple ways of providing support for promising undergraduate students. The awards are designed to foster cooperative research between the USGS and the USF College of Marine Science. Generally, a maximum of four students can be supported under this program in any given year. The students choose either a 2-year M.S. program or a 3-year Ph.D. program. The assistantship is a mutually beneficial arrangement. Many of the participating students are given office space at the USGS facilities. The assistantship program allows the USF College of Marine Science to attract and retain some of the brightest students in the United States. The program is of sufficient breadth that it supports students working in both the USGS St. Petersburg center and the USGS Tampa office for hydrological research.
USGS-Eckerd College Internship Program
For more than 15 years, the USGS has held a cooperative agreement with Eckerd College to provide mentorship and work experience for undergraduate students through the USGS-Eckerd College internship program, and to stimulate joint research projects in the fields of marine science, biology, and remote sensing. Involvement between USGS scientists and student interns enhances the educational and intellectual experience for the students. Interest in this internship has blossomed during the past 5 years. The number of students applying 5 years ago was just enough to fill the six intern positions; in contrast, approximately 20 to 30 applicants are anticipated for fiscal year 2010 (October 1, 2009, to September 30, 2010), including students from the departments of biology, chemistry, and computer science, as well as marine science. The USGS-Eckerd College internship program has grown and gained strength, much to the pleasure and benefit of the scientists who become mentors to the incoming students.
USGS-USF St. Petersburg Journalism Internship Program
Scientific journalism plays an important role in conveying the latest discoveries in science and technology to the general public. The USGS-USF St. Petersburg journalism internship program is designed to prepare a journalist for writing about scientific and environmental topics and issues. Through the internship, journalism students get practical hands-on experience in interviewing scientists, working on deadline, and dealing with production, as well as writing pieces that range from press releases to indepth feature articles, all focused on the latest scientific topics. The internship puts journalists in a scientific environment, where they gain experience and knowledge by working directly with scientists. The interaction helps both the journalists and the scientists, exposing journalists to the rigorous scientific review process, while helping scientists put their technical subjects into a more relevant context for greater understanding by the general public. In addition, access to USGS scientists provides journalists an opportunity to build relationships with expert contacts that can last beyond the internship. The journalism intern program is tailored to students' goals and relies on their motivation and interest. Examples of stories by and about previous interns:
USF contacts: Tony Silvia, firstname.lastname@example.org or Bob Dardenne, email@example.com
NAGT-USGS Cooperative Summer Field Training Program
The National Association of Geology Teachers (NAGT) and the USGS cooperate in an internship program for Earth-science students nominated by their field-camp directors. Begun in 1965, the NAGT-USGS Cooperative Summer Field Training Program is the longest continuously running internship in the Earth sciences. Over the past 40 years, more than 1,600 students have participated, with an impressive number of these individuals becoming full-time employees of the USGS. The names and affiliations of the 28 interns who participated in the 2008 program throughout the USGS can be viewed on the NAGT Web site.
These programs have made valuable contributions to the core USGS research mission. Not only do they provide much-needed help to overextended scientists, but they also provide an opportunity for scientists to interact with young people and find potential candidates to continue in the discipline. The USGS St. Petersburg staff has benefited enormously from this group of potential scientists. With the addition of the new USGS-USF St. Petersburg internship program, we hope to continue to strengthen that tradition in the future.
in this issue:
Internship Programs at USGS Center in St. Petersburg