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.
My time here at the SLA is passing by swimmingly. There is honestly never a dull moment in my day; whether it be bundling wood for hours upon end, or having to do something that Brett explains as “fun” (which of course, usually isn’t), I somehow manage to enjoy myself unexpectedly. For example, as I am writing this journal atop a rock on Bowman Island, there is a seemingly malicious squirrel overhead, probably attempting to plan my funeral. Continually squawking at my existence, he never gets tired of looking me dead in the eye and hoping for the worst. Like a said, never a dull moment here! From accidentally transforming my work gloves into an incredibly flammable accessory to forgetting that cheese in a cooler alone with no ice will not last an entire weekend, I am constantly making new, awesome experiences that I am both learning from and immediately storing in my hippocampus. One of my favorite memories so far has been one of the most eerie, yet compelling experiences involving a stare down with a massive fish.
There I was at the bottom of Squam Lake in typical scuba garb, completely defenseless, except for a considerably gigantic vacuum that we so lovingly call the DASH hose. If you have ever seen milfoil underwater, you would probably agree that it is one of the scariest lake plants to come upon. Not only is it an invasive species in Squam (BOOOOOO), but it is also looks absolutely terrifying at great heights. Milfoil knows your weaknesses concerning scary movies and it will undoubtedly set up the perfect scene to make you get the chills (not hard to do when you’re at the bottom of a lake). I was laying in field of insidious weeds plucking the tallest milfoil plants I had ever laid my eyes on, when I look over to peer upon a log floating midway in the water. After further exploration, I realized that the log was moving and had eyes. So not exactly your typical log, you know? Turns out it was actually an enormous fish, looking at me straight on. I immediately stopped pulling plants and was honestly slightly terrified that this aquatic creature, barely moving, was sizing me up. My mask was getting pretty foggy at this point, which made the scene a lot spookier than I could have ever anticipated. Soon enough the fish left my sight, which left me equally as horrified.
In that moment while staring into the eyes of a giant lake monster (slight exaggeration), although slightly frightened, I remembered why I was pulling milfoil. It’s for the fish. It’s for the ecosystem. It’s for Mother Earth. Pulling this seemingly ordinary plant is what is preserving Squam Lakes to a degree that is worth getting dirty, wet, cold, tired, and even scared for. Whenever us interns receive the common “thank you for your work!” comment, we know our work is being appreciated. It’s a great feeling knowing that you’re servicing not only the community and its inhabitants, but also a precious ecosystem that is being saved long before it even has the slightest chance of depleting.