The Squam Conservation Internship provides skills and experience for future conservation professionals while working as the driving force behind the SLA’s conservation mission. This volunteer internship provides hands-on conservation work experience and certifications over a broad range of activities. Interns serve as campsite hosts and caretakers at our backcountry campsites, work toward the eradication of variable milfoil, help preserve loon populations on Squam, engage both youth and adults in environmental education, and perform other conservation duties such as shoreline restoration and trail maintenance and construction. Squam Conservation Interns also regularly write about their experiences in the Squam Watershed. Learn more about the internship program here.
June 30, 2017
When I was young, perhaps eight or nine, I went on a snorkeling trip with my family in the Caribbean. I vividly remember this trip due to an incident that occurred while I was peacefully exploring the bottom of the ocean – I saw an octopus. This Chihuahua sized octopus instilled such fear in me that I sprinted back to the boat (I had seen The Little Mermaid one to many times). I reminisce about this encounter and wish I had remained to take in this beautiful creature in its natural habitat.
Squam Lake, though not host to Ursula-esc octopi, is home to some truly intriguing creatures, many of which I have now experienced in close quarters. These include loons, catfish, and snapping turtles. Though there are many other animals in the lake, I feel I must devote my time to these three. I will start with the loons, a bird I had never heard about before coming here. I have realized that the people of New Hampshire are strangely obsessed with them. With ghost-like calls in the night, the lung capacity of a penguin, and nerves of steel when it comes to approaching boats, it is no wonder that they are cause for such fascination. However, when you are in the water and a loon pops up 10 feet away from you, a new word comes to mind to describe them: intimidating.
Catfish. It is difficult to know where to begin. It is even more difficult to know where to go. All I will say is this: they are protective creatures who like to reside in and around patches of variable milfoil and will bite your leg repeatedly if you don’t get out of their space.
I leave the best for last: snapping turtles. These are animals I have always known to keep my distance from. Just the other week we discovered one laying eggs in the parking lot, roped off the area, and then moved the eggs to a safe location once the momma had vacated the premises. This was a heartwarming encounter; one that I can look back on and smile. But as time will tell, from tiny octopi and defensive catfish, I have notoriously terrifying underwater encounters. I promise you, if you accidently found yourself not two feet from a snapping turtle the size of a grown man’s torso, you would freak out too.
It may seem from these stories that diving for variable milfoil is treacherous and full of danger. However, the days I have gotten to spend under water have been my favorite days so far. Not even receiving threatening glares from loons, getting eaten by catfish, and coming across a monster of a turtle can ruin a day out on the lake. In much the same way as my run-in with the octopus, I look back on these times and smile.
Alice is from Durham, North Carolina. She graduated from Goucher College in May of 2017 where she majored in biology and minored in chemistry. Click here to read her bio.