Summer Intern Grace Pollard ’19 Researches Sea-Level Rise at The Nature Conservancy in Seattle, WA

This summer, I have been working at the Washington chapter of The Nature Conservancy at their office in downtown Seattle. The Nature Conservancy is the world’s largest conservation organization, so I feel extremely lucky to be seeing them in action behind-the-scenes. In Washington State, the work is focused on five priorities: Oceans, Lands, Cities, Water, and Climate. I have been working as a part of the Lands and Oceans teams, helping both with various projects and learning about the work they do all over the state.

On Wednesdays, I work for the Oceans team, and for my main project I have been assisting in research surrounding sea-level rise both globally and locally. Specifically, I have been looking into both the cost of sea-level rise economically and also the benefits of natural infrastructure versus shoreline armoring. Natural infrastructure is the use of ecosystems such as salt marshes, oyster reefs, mangroves, and coral reefs as barriers to erosion and flooding. Shoreline armoring is the use of man-made infrastructure like seawalls, levees to protect from erosion, but it is actually extremely ecologically damaging and expensive.  My research is going to be used by those working on the Coastal Resilience program, which is a global network of scientists and conservationists working to map out the hazards that coastal communities face and make the information more easily accessible. I also have been working on blog posts for the Nature Conservancy website that talk about the numbers I have been finding.

For the Lands team, I have mainly been focusing on editing and updating their portion of the website. This has led me to learn a ton of cool information about their preserves across the state. My main task for this project has been meeting with each of the preserve managers and conducting interviews to get better information on the work the Conservancy is doing at each site. I then write up new pages for each of the preserves that will be used for the website. Another awesome thing about working with the Lands team is that I have been able to get out of the office and go visit the preserves themselves! I went out for a day trip to Foulweather Bluff, a preserve in the Northern Puget Sound, and an overnight trip Moses Coulee, a massive preserve in Eastern Washington.

As I begin my last week of work for the summer, I look back and am immensely grateful for the time I have had at the Nature Conservancy. I have learned so much not only about conservation, but about how to work effectively in a professional (yet super friendly) environment. The Whitman Internship Grant has been such a key resource for me, otherwise this opportunity wouldn’t have been possible. I am so excited to see my research and writing go up on the Nature Conservancy website later this summer, and beyond that where I go in the future with a career that helps the planet!

Experiences like Grace’ s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff.

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