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.
July 13, 2017
Last week underwater, I understood why a show of force is often an indicator for an insecure ego or perceived threat to safety. While kneeling in a cloud of silt in Asquam Marina, a huge catfish would not leave me alone. I normally don’t mind when I find a friend underwater – be it a turtle, bass, or even a fellow intern – but this monstrous fish looked rather displeased that I was so close to her nest, and she wasn’t budging. I kept eyeing her in between harvesting plants, but the cloud of silt I was creating was beginning to encompass the fish. That added another layer to the irrational panic that was setting in. Visibility was quickly going away, I was 15 feet underwater, and there was a huge disgruntled fish somewhere in the cloud of muck. And so, in a moment of fear I did what I have never done while diving before, I (attempted to) aggressively grab the fish. Normally, divers go in search of wildlife and the interns are thrilled to see anything other than the striking green and plumy fronds of Milfoil. Not this time. Of course, with one flick of her tail she was gone before I could lay a finger on her but the lasting implications of that moment stuck around much longer than that catfish. Watching the empty water where the fish was a moment before, I felt pleased and secure that I could still scare it away, even though it was scaring me. Even in its habitat, I had the upper hand. There was a sense of comfort in that, though later I realized that of course the fish could be back at any moment and I would never have known, because my flailing had only succeeded in kicking up more silt. I had never quite understood why kids bullied other kids on the playground, or people felt the need to unnecessarily toot their own horn, and other such behavior. But I realized in that moment, with a handful of milfoil in one hand with my SCUBA bubbles racing to the surface, and my other arm trying to defend myself against a fish that couldn’t hurt me, that I had assumed that role. That was a new one for me to occupy, and I spent the rest of my dive contemplating the implications on my understanding of social dynamics that this interaction between the catfish and I had sparked.
As I’m sure our readership has realized thus far, we interns spend a considerable amount of time breathing compressed air and harvesting Variable Milfoil. And while our knowledge of – and appreciation for – these plants and the physics and engineering behind our eradication tools have increased exponentially over the past month and a half, I find myself discovering and learning far beyond the reaches of what I expected. In my last journal, I promised that this summer would be full of realizations, a rebuilt understanding of the lake, and an always deepening appreciation of Nature. It has not disappointed. I have taught people to kayak while working Headquarters on July 4th, been designated bug-catcher (and releaser) because I “work for the SLA,” surveyed coves that were once dominated by Milfoil and now are free from the invasive species, and climbed the peaks of this Range and dove its depths. Every inch of this region holds a lifetime of learning and inspiration, stay tuned for more revelations and Naked-Eyeball moments.
But aside from all of the serious work and deep reflections, we have lots of goofy moments too during our long days on the dive boat – some of which include megaphones.
Elizabeth is from Connecticut. She currently attends Washington-Lee University and is a double major in Economics and English. Click here to read Elizabeth's bio.