Undergraduate Interns Brush up on their Climate Knowledge in Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma

8.08.2017 (Tue)


The next generation of environmental professionals will require a familiarity with climate issues to rise to the challenges they pose. For this reason, the South Central Climate Science Center provides an annual undergraduate internship opportunity that introduces students to climate research and impacts in the South Central region. This year’s 10 interns got their hands dirty taking sediment cores on the Louisiana coast, learned directly from native nations about their climate-related challenges, watched a weather balloon launch, collected invertebrates to monitor water quality, and much more. Special thanks to all of the institutions who hosted an activity for our interns, whether they were involved for a week or an hour. Their willingness to take time out of their busy schedules helped make the internship a success.

Interns

The 2017 class of interns with LSU staff.

Graduate students and faculty at each of the institutions associated with the program (Louisiana State University, University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, and Texas Tech University) worked closely with the interns throughout the three week internship. They helped the interns understand the relevance of state-of-the-art research taking place in the region by introducing them to the Oklahoma Mesonet, giving them a tour of the National Weather Center, and explaining how climate projections are developed. 

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Seeing firsthand how the Mesonet network informs weather and climate research in Oklahoma.

The interns were also given the opportunity to assist with fieldwork. They spent several days at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), where they rode on a boat to a nearby island to look at damage from Tropical Storm Cindy. While on the island, they measured elevation changes and took cores in the saltwater marsh. At the Atchafalaya basin with the Nature Conservancy of Louisiana, the interns took part in collecting sediment cores and were given a behind the scenes swamp tour.

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Collecting and analyzing sediment cores on the Louisiana coast.

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Learning about the importance of the seafood industry to Louisiana’s economy.

The interns also learned about climate impacts by hearing firsthand from the people affected. They received a special “white boots” treatment from the local United Houma Nation members in Louisiana, where they learned about living on the coast from a native perspective. During their time in Oklahoma, the interns got the chance to see how an Emergency Operations Center works, as well as how wastewater is treated in Moore, OK. These groups face difficulties with extreme events and the students found it interesting how they adapted to different extreme events. While staying at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, they visited a USDA ARS facility and heard from agricultural producers about climate impacts to productivity.

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Collecting critters to help monitor stream health in Oklahoma.

At the end of the internship, the students presented a group project they had completed based on what they had learned. They returned to their host universities with an enhanced understanding of how climate is impacting the fields they study and the communities that surround them.