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 25, 2017
Picture this. I am fifteen feet underwater floating effortlessly still and breathing as comfortably as I would be on land. The only thing I can hear is the light hum of water surrounding my ear drum and the rhythmic bubbles released from my exhaled breaths. I am encompassed by sunbeams cutting through the blue green, crystal-clear water. The pond weed reaching from the bottom to the surface resembles an underwater forest from some parallel universe. To my left is Katri, my intern manager, and three feet to my right is an enormous spawning smallmouth bass. In front of us is a small patch of invasive variable milfoil, which together we dig out its roots, careful not to make any fragments, and place it in a mesh bag attached to our side.
This is what I experienced on my second dive day while hand-pulling here at the Squam Lakes Association as a conservation intern. Luckily for me, scuba diving for the prolific variable milfoil is one of the more common things that we do as interns for “work” and it is quickly becoming my favorite. Variable milfoil was first identified in Squam in 2000, but a new infestation has not been observed since 2007. This is largely due in part to the work of SLA staff, numerous volunteers, past interns, and of course Millie, the boat that is home to the Diver Assisted Suction Harvester (DASH), which was designed by the SLA’s own Director of Recreation, Brett Durham.
The immense satisfaction of clearing a patch of milfoil is enough to keep us coming back day after day to do it again. After three dive days in a row I started dreaming about pulling it from the floor in our intern cottage. Another intern went on a run and was taken back for a moment when a blown over tree resembled a milfoil stem swaying in the water a little too closely. I don’t believe I speak for myself when I say that the lakes beauty has had a profound impact on all the interns and it is that beauty that drives us to work towards keeping it pristine for years to come.
So far, I have been personally tormented by a raccoon that always seems to be one step ahead of me (her name is Betsy), cleaned out numerous buckets of composted poop, and moved a lot of stuff from one place to another, and then often to another. Even with all these misadventures, it is the tangible results that we can already see from our work that puts a smile on our face, even when we are up to our elbows in knee deep backed up drainage below a composting toilet. Stay tuned.
Dominique is rising junior at Plymouth State University studying Environmental Biology and minoring in Sustainability. Click here to read Dominique's bio.