Ana Bishop, a Master of Environmental Management student, spent her summer as Sussman Fellow in the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Protected Species Division – Marine Mammal Branch at NOAA.

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 Ana to learn more about her experience.

What did you do at your internship and how did you use the skills you learned at the Nicholas School?

I was brought on to help develop technical memos that summarize the results of annual surveys that take place during the North Atlantic right whale calving season. The surveys run throughout the Southeastern United States, and provide critical insight into the population’s habitat usage and conservation status. One important result that the surveys document is how many right whale calves are born that year, which helps give us a sense of how their population is doing on an annual basis. The reports that I helped write synthesized the survey data from each year and revealed the important

Ana Bishop

Ana Bishop

results and conclusions that were gathered as a result. These reports are an important way of contextualizing the results from each individual year to gain an overall sense of the population’s conservation status, as well as making previously exclusive data accessible to the public. Public outreach and engagement are critical pieces of right whale conservation, and these reports are meant to help fill that need by sharing pertinent conservation information in an accessible and engaging way.

My skills that I learned at the Nicholas School were integral to my ability to successfully do my job. Having analytical skills in R and GIS were a huge benefit while navigating the survey data, and I was grateful for how much the Nicholas School helped me learn and develop those skills in my first year. Thanks to my statistical and technical classes, I was able to navigate quantitative data analysis with ease, which allowed me to do my work effectively and also stand out to my colleagues! Additionally, the policy background that I’ve acquired from my classes gave me a strong foundational knowledge of relevant legislation that my office works with closely (such as the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act) and helped me understand the best ways to incorporate diverse perspectives to develop effective management procedures. In short, the Nicholas School has helped me develop a strong foundation in both policy and technical knowledge, which made me feel very prepared and confident while working in this role.

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

The Nicholas School had an instrumental role in both helping me to get this internship and finding financial support to fund my experience. Our professors and the Career & Professional Development Center (CPDC) always advise us about the importance of connecting with alumni in our fields of interest, and we are also given an abundance of opportunities to connect with alumni through school-sponsored programs and clubs. These factors motivated me to reach out to an alumna whose career I was interested in, who then helped introduce me to other alums with whom I shared similar career interests, until one of them ultimately offered me my position! The connections offered through the Nicholas School and its alumni network have been a huge asset towards starting my career journey.

Once I secured my internship opportunity, I needed help finding ways to fund it. Allison Besch with the CPDC was an enormous help with this, and walked me through all of the funding options that I could apply for, as well as her advice for writing a strong application. I received a Sussman Fellowship thanks to her help, which I was only able to access due to the Nicholas School’s connection with this funding source.

How will this experience help you in your career? 

This internship allowed me to gain direct exposure to the field that I hope to work in after I graduate, gave me valuable experience in protected species policy, science, and management, and helped me make connections within NOAA that will be indispensable as I start my job search. I am interested in both research and policy, and I hope to apply both of those interests to inform best management practices in my future career. My internship gave me the chance to do just that and gave me a space to explore both of these interests while learning how to apply them to real-world situations. Finally, this internship gave me some great insight into what it’s like to work in the federal government.