USGS/NAGT Intern Reflections

These past interns have shared the impacts of their experience. If you are a former USGS/NAGT intern and would like to contribute your memories and reflections to this collection, just use the simple Submit a Reflection form.

Reflections from Joseph M. Krienert
Joseph M. Krienert
My USGS internship contributed towards a project mentored by Dr. Geneva Chong. This assignment focused on habitat assessment via plant phenology monitoring in the North-Central US. A major aspect of this research includes the use of field cameras that automatically capture photos of an ecosystem several times each day, nearly 365 days a year. The images are uploaded to a central database where long sequences can reveal ecosystem dynamics, such as annual trends in plant growth and senescence influencing migratory trends of foraging species. Through this internship I was able to analyze data derived from one of these field cameras, and spend several days of fieldwork programing, repairing, and installing 3 new observation sites!

Reflections from Kelly Sanks
Kelly Sanks
I worked on Carbon Burial in Salt Marshes following Tidal Restriction: A Case Study from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. My mentor was Meagan Gonneea, and I worked at the USGS in Woods Hole, MA. The project focused on comparing carbon sequestration between restored and natural marshes, and I gathered data from 8 different salt marshes on the outer cape. I helped collect and cut some of cores for this project. Most of the cores were collected last summer, so I was in charge of age dating the sediment from the cores as well as analyzing the sediment for percent carbon using CHN analysis. After the lab work was finished, I calculated carbon densities for different depths of each core as well as carbon accretion rates from 1900-present.

Reflections from Marcel Peliks
Marcel Peliks
My internship at the Cascades Volcano Observatory with the Instrumentation Team was as challenging as it was rewarding. As part of the instrumentation team, I helped build, install, and maintain various instruments used in monitoring volcanic activity. With more accurate data logging, faster response times, and ultimately a better way to communicate findings with the public, the instruments we installed contribute to ongoing research projects as well as the safety of surrounding communities. Throughout the length of my internship I constantly recognized the importance of technical advancements in the field of geology.

Reflections from Leslie A Logan
Leslie A Logan
I worked on two projects during my time as an intern at the USGS. The first was on a gold-antimony mine in Yellow Pine, Idaho. It was through this project that I was first introduced to the study of fluid inclusions in geology. I went to the field with my colleagues to help collect core and regional field samples. This was my first time using and sampling core in order to learn about a deposit, which introduced me to a whole new way of learning about the mineralogy of rocks at depth! I also gained valuable experience creating "quick plates", a lower quality version of a thin section that can be made quickly for preliminary analysis – skills which will be advantageous for me for future research. The second project synthesized published data on fluid inclusions from the Illinois-Kentucky Fluorspar district and brine waters of the Illinois Basin. Not only did I learn about a type of deposit in depth, but I also gained experience in microthermometry and hydrogen isotope analysis. I presented my work as a poster at the PACROFI conference in Columbia, MO in May 2016. I am grateful for all of the laboratory and field experience I gained during my time as an intern!

Reflections from Savannah Miller
Savannah Miller
NAWC SERDP. Tom Imbrigiotta and Dan Goode were my mentors and the project was located in West Trenton, New Jersey at the Naval Air War Center (NAWC) Research Site. I worked on multiple projects while I was at the USGS. They were all investigating contaminated groundwater in fractured rock. During the summer I helped with groundwater sampling, back diffusion testing in isolated boreholes, and fractured rock passive flux meters.

Reflections from Laura Sugano
Laura Sugano
My project was: Evaluating Pleistocene and mid-continent climate, hydrologic, and paleoseismic records using speleothems from caves in Arkansas, Missouri, and Indiana. My mentor was Jim Paces and my project supervisor was Mark Hudson. I spent most of my time doing lab work at the Federal Center in Lakewood, Colorado. I was able to visit one of the caves,Fitton Cave, where my samples were from. In the lab, I was responsible for preparing samples for Uranium-series dis-equilibrium dating analysis by using a rock saw, sonicator, jaw crusher, polishing machine, and a hand drill. I also assisted in weighing, digesting, and performing chemical analyses on the Uranium, Thorium, and Strontium samples before they were dated.

Reflections from Patrick Whalen
Patrick Whalen
I worked on stratigraphy of volcanic deposits in the Cascade range. Jim Vallance was my mentor. The project was in the Cascade range with the Cascade Volcano Observatory headquartered in Vancouver, Washington. I assisted in stratigraphy, paleomag., and sample collection at Mt. Shasta, Mt. Hood, and Mt. St. Helens. This work was done in order to better understand the erruption histories at these volcanoes.

Reflections from Luke Stevens
Luke Stevens
I worked on a variety of ecology projects under the leadership of Kristen Hart, PhD, and Mike Cherkiss, USGS, University of Florida, Davie, FL. I assisted in an investigation of sea turtle nesting patterns Gulf Shores, AL and in south Florida, conducting night beach surveys for nesting females. I helped with catch and release of the nesting mothers, and collected tissue and blood samples and other measurements. We attached GPS tags to some turtles, for continuous location monitoring. I also assisted in a project to investigate distribution of invasive species in the Florida Everglades. I joined in a field tracking excursion of a GPS tagged adult Burmese python. I also assisted in construction of large constrictor holding facility. In an investigation of distribution and feeding patterns of invasive Tegu lizards, I performed necropsies of captured and euthanized specimens. I also assisted in the study of American crocodile nesting patterns in the Florida Everglades. I helped conduct night surveys and tagged hatchling crocodiles for survey purposes...

Reflections from Ryan D. Witkosky
During the 1994 Northridge earthquake I was child, awakened by terrified screams and furniture crashing to the ground. Persistent aftershocks created widespread panic and confusion, but I was fascinated by the transient seismic waves. I yearned to explore the enigmatic subterranean realm of tectonic disturbances, and in Summer 2013 I finally got the chance to do this by working in paleoseismic trenches with Dr. Katherine Scharer (from the USGS office in Pasadena, California). Dr. Scharer taught me how to determine the timing of prehistoric earthquakes along the San Andreas fault, which has inspired me to continue studying active tectonics in southern California for my graduate research. Dr. Scharer has also continued to help me with academic and research advice as I pursue my PhD in earthquake geology. In southern California, earthquakes are as common as the dirt that chronicles their history, and by working with great scientists like Dr. Scharer, I now have the ability to figure out when and where the next earthquakes are likely to occur in the future!!!

Reflections from Dean Hazle
The NAGT/USGS Cooperative Summer Field Training Program has been a fantastic summer. Although I was not aware of the program during field camp, it was a great surprise to find that my hard work at University of Alaska, Fairbanks had paid off with a nomination for the program. Working at the Water Science Center in New Cumberland, PA has been full of new experiences. I have learned at least another semesters worth of hydrology and geochemistry in the past two months, while gaining tons of field experience. Working with scientists of all different backgrounds to accomplish our projects has prepared me for how top notch science should be approached. Being able to cite my experience and accomplishments at the USGS while applying to graduate school and full time jobs will certainly be a huge help!

Reflections from Cody Mason
This summer during my NAGT/USGS internship I gained a wide variety of important experiences related to field work, laboratory work, and even received instruction on the writing of abstracts and manuscripts. I was given the opportunity to work on a project dealing with geologic mapping, neotectonics, and Pleistocene climate change within the northern Rio Grande rift -- a project which allowed me to work in a region stretching from Taos, New Mexico up to Leadville, Colorado. I spent time working with seasoned field geologists and as a consequence greatly expanded my knowledge of regional geologic history and of what it is like to be a USGS geologist...

Reflections from Evan Larsell
I had a wonderful experience 2010 spring field camp that awarded me NAGT/USGS internship, mapping rocks in the Mojave desert. I never in a million years imagined I'd be indirectly tracking grizzly bears in Glacier National Park the following summer. Biology students all over the country have been pining for this position and I managed so slip in through the back door thanks to this program. It was a fantastic experience in one of the most beautiful places in the country. I'm grateful for the diversity of experience this program has provided me.

Reflections from Kyle M. Samperton
My internship experience provided valuable experience and insight into the interdisciplinary nature of the professional scientific community. Moreover, it gave me the chance both to observe and to take part in a serious scientific endeavor with significant ecological, economical, and social consequences. In all honesty, the scope of my internship program overlapped only marginally with my study of interest, geology; however, as stated, the internship provided invaluable exposure to the interconnectedness of science. Therefore, although my long-term professional/research interests are arguably unrelated to the majority of the content within my internship, I would not trade the experience gained from it for anything. If given the opportunity to do it again, I would gladly accept my internship without a moment's hesitation.

Reflections from Stan Mordensky
I had never been asked to map any area that hadn't been mapped before. I learned how to set my own pace and used previous experience as well as what I learned in the field to know what to expect and where to go next. That said, there were numerous surprises. I will never forget the day I found the magnetic rhyolite. A professor from my university met with me every few weeks and I'd show him my latest finds and he'd offer his guidance as to what to look for next, but that didn't seem to help when my supervisor visisted during the last week and a good portion of what I had mapped turned out to be incorrect. Discouraging? Yes. But I learned far too much in an area I had known only a little about before - fieldwork. My confidence to perform fieldwork certainly increased dramatically even if not everything I did was perfect. However, I also learned I need more years in the field before I can work solo.

Memories of a Golden Summer with the USGS in Colorado
David Applegate
I spent the summer of 1989 working for the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado, on an NAGT/USGS Summer Field Camp Fellowship, for which I remain profoundly grateful to both NAGT and the USGS. Getting to Golden was made possible by a wonderful field camp experience the previous summer, when I was one of about a dozen rising juniors and seniors learning the ropes under the guidance of Bill Travers from Cornell. The first half of this field camp was in the Hoback Range of Wyoming, where we operated out of the University of Michigan geology department's collection of aluminum-roofed cabins nestled in a remote valley. I reached it by way of a 48-hour bus trip from Seattle to ...

Reflections from Jeffrey Hedenquist
Jeffrey Hedenquist
I worked in the USGS Pacific-Arctic Marine Geology program on the Coastal Sedimentology project, led by Ed Clifton. The summer I was with the project we worked in Willapa Bay, Washington, north of the Columbia River mouth, the largest undisturbed estuary in the lower 48 states. The project characterized the sedimentological features of the estuarine environment and its transition to the open ocean. I was one of 4 field assistants to 3 professionals, and everyone was a certified SCUBA diver. The work program included collection of box and tube cores of sediments throughout the estuary, X-raying slices to reveal internal structures, and freezing samples for transport back to Menlo Park, plus other field work.

Reflections from 2016 NAGT Intern
For my project as a NAGT intern, I performed numerical analysis using Python to quantify strain rates in the Coso Volcanic Field. I used GPS data from the last couple of decades to determine the velocity field of the area and was able to identify a strain anomaly where the local geothermal facility is located. My mentor, Ole Kaven, spent a lot of time teaching me how to write the code and perform the numerical analysis required for this project. I will be presenting my results as an abstract and poster at the AGU Fall Meeting and probably the Stanford Geothermal Workshop as well. In addition, I was able to participate in a gravity and magnetic survey for a potential fields project in southern Idaho. I learned a lot about field geophysics and was glad that I was able to help out and broaden the scope of my internship.

Reflections from Gary McGaughey
Gary McGaughey
I worked on an urban hydrology pilot project in Raleigh, NC with Krissy Hopkins. The project aimed to collect water quality data from small watersheds around the Triangle area with the goal of looking for correlation between water quality and sewage and septic systems. As an intern on this project I took part in data collection, working with a team to collect water samples and run field titrations. I also took part in delineating the watersheds in ArcGIS and processing the data.

Reflections from Schuyler Robinson
Schuyler Robinson
My 2017 NAGT internship was spent trying to understand leakance rates in glacial tills and confined sand aquifers under the direction of Jared Trost in the Twin Cities area, Minnesota. There were 4 study sites around the state for this project and most of my efforts involved constructing and calibrating a groundwater flow model in MODFLOW for the first site. Another aspect of my role in the research was drilling, developing, and conducting slug tests on the third study site.

Reflections from Elizabeth Whiddon
Elizabeth Whiddon
I worked on the project, "Aquatic biogeochemical cycling: inland waters carbon fluxes" under Rob Striegl, Sarah Stackpoole, and Sydney Wilson out of Boulder, CO after being nominated by my professor, Joel Blum. Our project was located in the Upper Mississippi River Basin, where Sydney, Sarah, and I spent a week collecting water samples and running a LGR (Los Gatos Research) gas analyzer to obtain methane and carbon dioxide fluxes in varying watersheds. The sample sites ranged from first order streams to the great Mississippi River, and samples were being taken monthly over the past two years to achieve an accurate representation of the chemical composition and physical parameters of the different rivers in the watershed. I helped analyze for alkalinity, TDN, DOC, major anions, ammonium, iron, and UV in the lab. I began working with the group after much of the data had been collected over the previous two years, and was fortunate enough to then get the opportunity to work with the very detailed dataset. I used pH, alkalinity, and temperature values to calculate a dissolved inorganic carbon concentration using a geochemical modeling program, PHREEQC. I looked at how these concentrations changed spatially and temporally, and used data from co-located discharge stations to calculate fluxes. My goal is use RLOADEST to further calculate dissolved inorganic carbon loads throughout the basin.

Reflections from Wesley Weisberg
I worked with Erin Marsh and Al Hofstra in the Denver USGS Mineral Resources Program office. Our research focused on mineral inclusions in placer gold from the Chicken, AK region to determine provenance and gold deposit type (ie orogenic, intrusion related etc.). I used a combination of Electron Microprobe analyses (EMP) to measure major element abundance and the gold-silver ratio (electrum) in the grains and a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) to identify mineral inclusions to assist in separating gold deposit type. Our findings were presented as a talk at the 2016 GSA annual meeting in Denver, CO. The official title of our project was "Geochemistry and preliminary constraints on provenance of placer grains of the Fortymile Gold District, East Central Alaska." Additionally, I have continued to work on the project with Erin Marsh (USGS) and Robert Chapman from the University of Leeds and will be presenting at the upcoming 2018 AME Vancouver Roundup in January.