Natalie Dixon, a Master of Environmental Management student, spent the summer as a surfonomics intern with the Surf Conservation Partnership.

Each year, Nicholas School of the Environment students complete internships with organizations around the world. These internships provide valuable opportunities to gain career-related experience and build a professional network. 

Duke Environment recently caught up with Natalie to learn more about her experience. 

What are you doing at your internship and how are you using the skills you've learned at the Nicholas School?

beach in Costa Rica

"This summer I worked with the Surf Conservation Partnership (SCP) to determine the revenue that surf tourism generates annually in Nosara, Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The Surf Conservation Partnership is a joint force between Conservation International and Save the Waves Coalition whose goal is to protect the world’s best waves and the marine and coastal ecosystems that surround them. SCP uses surfing as a conservation advocacy tool to remove threats of overfishing, deforestation, plastic pollution and unsustainable development.

SCP is beginning to work on a comprehensive surf conservation program in Nosara, Costa Rica, and I was tasked with conducting the economic valuation study, or “surfonomics,” for the main surfing beach there—Playa Guiones. I used the surfonomics study from a different study in Costa Rica, at Playa Hermosa, Puntarenas, as a model for the study in Nosara. I developed a survey to determine tourists' daily expenditures in Playa Guiones and to glean which environmental attributes of the area were most important to them. The survey also asked tourists if they would be willing to pay an entrance fee to Playa Guiones and how much they would be willing to pay to allow us to quantify how surfing tourists value the beach. Over the course of seven weeks, I collected 200 surveys from tourists along Playa Guiones.

I am also continuing with the surfonomics project as my Master’s Project as I move into my second year at the Nicholas School."

How did the Nicholas School help you during your internship search? 

"The Surf Conservation Partnership did not have funding for a summer intern, however, I was able to obtain funding through scholarships and grants at the Career and Professional Development Center (CPDC). Allison Besch, the CPDC director, guided me through the process and encouraged me to take a risk with a more non-traditional internship experience – and I’m so glad I did!"

How will this experience help you in your career? 

"This project has given me the confidence to initiate and follow through with a project I feel passionately about. I have also gained skills in survey design and implementation and will continue to develop these as I move forward with my Master’s Project."


Read more internship Q+A stories