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 unpaid 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, engage both youth and adults in environmental education, and perform other conservation duties such as shoreline restoration and trail maintenance and construction. Learn more about the internship program here. Squam Conservation Interns also regularly write about their experiences in the Squam Watershed.
If there’s one area of this internship in which I believe I’ve grown the most, it’s diving. It was definitely the aspect that I was most excited about, but it took me a while to get comfortable with it. At first, I was apprehensive to take my diving to greater depths, as I had difficulty equalizing pressure in my ears while descending. This began to worry me, as diving is one of the main tasks that we participate in throughout the summer, and I hoped to explore more areas after my time here on Squam. Fortunately, I got the hang of equalizing pressure after a couple more dives, and now the new areas to improve were my buoyancy and mobility in the water. Good thing for me, I had time to work on these as I would be diving multiple times a week for the next couple of months. Within the span of about a week or two, I no longer felt anxious or uncomfortable in the water as I did when I first started diving. It was great! My mind was at ease and I rather looked forward to future dive days.
Another thing I noticed that improved to great amounts was the amount of oxygen that I consumed during a dive. When I first started diving, I would nearly consume a full tank of air after being underwater for only an hour. That doesn’t really allow much time for someone to cover a large area during a dive. However, once I got used to controlling my buoyancy, I noticed that I was able to stay underwater for a much longer period of time. As of now, I have doubled my original diving time on a single air tank. Most of the time, I forget how long I’ve been underwater as time seems to breeze past very quickly when you’re moving around looking for milfoil.
Throughout the summer, I’ve come across some pretty awesome things while diving. One of my favorite diving spots on Squam would have to be Bennett Cove. In no other spot on the lake have I found such large schools of perch and bass, along with some of the largest pickerel I have ever seen. We came across a few smaller milfoil plants here and there around the cove, but the area was mostly cleared of it. What made me like the spot so much was the biodiversity of the environment. There were so many different plants and so many large, healthy fish within the cove. This really put into perspective how important it was to prevent the spread of milfoil in this area, since invasive milfoil has the potential to outcompete the native plants in that area, degrading the richness of the environment.