An Intern’s Perspective

Hello! I’m Sandra and at the moment I’ve just arrived back home after doing an internship at Earthwatch, where I’ve supported the research team in Oxford for about five months. My whole Earthwatch period still feels like a great adventure; I’m from the Netherlands and this was the first time I have lived and worked abroad!

I ended up at Earthwatch after an unexpected turn of events only a couple of months ago. Back then I had no idea that I would do an internship abroad and I had never even heard of Earthwatch. I only knew that for my masters Environmental Sciences I had to do an internship, which I would have to start sorting out quite soon. Long story short, I found out about Earthwatch, applied for a position advertised on its website, got the position, changed all my plans for the upcoming year, and moved to Oxford not long after. I was really curious about what happens within an organisation like Earthwatch, about how all of its results get accomplished. I figured that you might be curious as well, so in this Unlocked I will share some of my discoveries with you.

A look on the inside
You probably can imagine that there is wide variety of roles within Earthwatch; there are staff working on selecting and preparing participants for expeditions, on processing evaluation data, and on the facilitation and support of field delivery. Other members of staff make contact with corporate businesses, maintain contact with corporate partners and are involved in fundraising. Again other teams work on the learning experiences of the volunteers and local stakeholders, on the training of emerging scientists in developing countries, and on learning programmes for corporate participants.

Furthermore, it is important to stay in contact with the principal investigators (PIs), project proposals are received and assessed, and projects are assessed annually against certain criteria. These are tasks the research team is involved in and that I have assisted with as well. Furthermore, the research team supports and manages the ‘science-side’ of the projects. This means a lot of online researching, reading of papers and scientific articles, writing reports, and critically reading project documents. Also, cooperation with other teams is essential.

Being an intern
As you might expected, work as a research intern varies a lot! Critically reading and editing proposals, reviewing texts for the expedition guide, writing an overview of some of the new projects, looking at the research impacts and highlights, assessing project achievements, getting potential future projects peer reviewed and doing a lot of background research are all examples, but this is by far not an extensive list of daily tasks. Some perhaps unexpected tasks are also related to the debate and lectures Earthwatch organises three times a year in London, and assisting with local field work. Not only does this keep the work interesting, you also learn a lot about many different topics.

Over the months I became very familiar with many Earthwatch projects, research methodologies and the power of citizen science, and I have gained many insights into environmental issues and conservation needs all over the world. What also made the work very valuable was that I never had the feeling that interns were just there to do the boring and easy tasks; our work has always been used by the various members of staff and had a clear purpose.

What became very clear to me is that Earthwatch is everywhere, and that its impacts are widespread and far-reaching. Although I was not familiar with Earthwatch before, once I knew about the organisation its projects and results started to appear in the news and on social media on a frequent basis. Reading and assessing the projects on criteria like impacts on local and international management, on the local community, and on biodiversity made me realise how important these projects are. Moreover, evaluations and talks about how the public and corporate programmes inspire so many people to make a change in their life, in their organisation, in their career and in their homes shows me that it is possible to change the world in a way that is fun and adventurous.

Overall, I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be an intern at Earthwatch for a couple of months and just as Earthwatch expeditions leave their mark on people, my internship will definitely leave its mark on me. I’m ready to make a change in the world!