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 7, 2016
I used to be terrified of the water. I had a near-drowning incident when I was about seven years old that made me develop a phobia. Additionally, seeing Jaws shortly after didn’t help at all. I’ve spent years trying to overcome my fear. It started with joining the swim team in middle school and then my coach offering me a lifeguard position at the pool. From there, I coached a swim team, taught swimming lessons, and eventually became a waterfront director at a beach. Furthermore, I became a certified scuba diver and now look where I am. Lakes, ponds, and rivers don’t scare me anymore. The only thing I worry about now is the ocean. Ask anyone of my friends and they will tell you how hard it is to get me to go swimming at an ocean beach. I’ve made progress though. Now, instead of the Jaws theme song playing in my head when I enter the water I only think about one thing. What’s down there?
Eventually, I would like to study sharks in a marine protected area. I know. Pulling weeds and studying sharks are completely different. Also, I know I said I still have a fear of the ocean. It doesn’t matter. I think it would be cool to have a job where you’re both excited and afraid. I’ve worked a long time trying to overcome my fear so why stop now?
My favorite moment of the internship so far has been the weed control scuba diver class. We went diving and practiced removing milfoil in a river close to a dam. We only went down about 7 feet but that’s all it took. I emptied out the air from my BC to submerge underneath the water where it instantly feels like a whole other world. I managed to hover just inches from the bottom, directly over the milfoil. There was no need for my BC anymore. I was able to adjust my buoyancy by controlling my breathing. I descended lower. Darkness. The water was so murky from the other interns that I was blind. Amazing how big of a difference a few inches made. For the next thirty minutes I remained on the bottom using only my sense of touch to carefully remove the milfoil. At the end, I took a minute for myself. I closed my eyes and hovered motionless in the water.
All I could think about was how incredible this watershed is and the opportunity I have to help preserve it. Removing the variable milfoil has multiple benefits that can be felt by many plants, animals, and even us humans. I’m glad to be a part of the ongoing efforts on the lake. The Squam Lakes watershed is the next step I am taking to get closer to my future goals. In time, I hope it will also be the next step others will take towards their goals.
Stevie grew up in Claremont, New Hampshire is currently attending the University of Vermont, UVM, where he's majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Wildlife Biology.