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Interns Dive into Chesapeake Science, Policy, Programs

July 03, 2023

Summer interns give college students valuable experience and help the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office work toward a healthy Bay.

A grid of six blocks: Five are images of smiling young women showing their enthusiasm for NOAA science and healthy habitat; one is the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office logo We welcome the five NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office interns for summer 2023!

The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office is once again hosting students from around the country for 12-week summer internships. Our interns gain knowledge and experience, and we benefit from having additional talented staff members for the summer. 

Each intern focuses on a needed project that might not otherwise happen due to time and resource constraints. So every intern’s project contributes to the health of the Chesapeake! And every intern works closely with mentors who provide guidance for their Chesapeake Bay-focused projects and collaborates with our experts. 

We partner with the Chesapeake Research Consortium to make these internships possible, including collaborating with them on the Chesapeake Student Recruitment, Early Advisement, and Mentoring program. This program supports students who are underrepresented in their field of study. 

What Does Habitat Mean to You?

Because of our strong interest in healthy habitat, we asked each of our interns to share what they think of when they think of “habitat”:


I think about habitat not only as a physical environment, but the conditions and relationships that make flourishing possible. To me, habitat means home.


This has always been a difficult question for me since, throughout my life, habitat has had many different definitions. However, out of all the definitions, the one I connected with the most was a location providing an organism with all the necessary conditions for survival.

Emma C. 

I would say a place that something calls home. My habitat is probably a coffee shop with lots of books, or a library.


To me, "habitat" means an environment where an organism can thrive—where its physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs are being met. This way it can grow and reach its full potential as an organism!

Emma V. 

I grew up in New York City on the twelfth floor of a Manhattan apartment building. There is a nesting pair of peregrine falcons in the church across the street and we have some fearless rats in the subways. I used to think that only pristine mountains and beaches were habitats, but now I realize that my home city is also a habitat that supports all sorts of wacky and unique ecosystems. It has also been an important shift to realize that humans are part of ecosystems and therefore the spaces that support human life are habitats too. 

Let’s learn more about this year’s talented class of interns!

Claire Burnet

A smiling young woman is seated in front of flowering plants and shrubs

This fall, Claire Burnet will be a senior at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, where she is an environmental studies major and an educational studies minor. She’s with us this summer, fittingly, as our climate learning intern. During her time with us, she’ll help design and implement environmental literacy programs that focus on climate change.

Claire found the internship opportunity on Handshake, a website that helps college students explore career options and find jobs and internships. 

“I'm looking forward to learning from people that shape climate change education,” Claire noted. “I'm particularly interested in finding and developing resources that help students navigate climate-related emotions and pursue meaningful action.”

She was inspired to study the environment because her favorite learning experiences have been those that connect her to the natural world. 

“I loved learning about the challenges and opportunities facing ecosystems—from identifying macroinvertebrates to touring landfills. I want every young person to have access to quality education that helps them make sense of the world around them. My hope is that by working in environmental literacy I can help make that happen.”

Catherine Carrion

A young woman wearing sunglasses, a ball cap, and hip waders stands on a beach next to survey equipment

Catherine Carrion is majoring in fish conservation and minoring in biological sciences. She will be a senior at Virginia Tech in the fall. We’re delighted she heard about the internships with the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office from one of her professors. Catherine is our habitat science intern. She will spend this summer helping to collect fish biodiversity data to support the Poplar Island restoration project.

Catherine is eager to dive into her project. To get the most out of her internship, she also wants to learn about other projects supporting fisheries and habitat in the region. 

“I want to learn more about the different projects at the Oxford lab to see what everyone else is working on and what other people are passionate about. So in the time that I am here, I want to learn as much as humanly possible,” she emphasized.

Her curiosity will serve her well in the environmental field. 

“When I took a trip to the Florida Keys in my junior year of high school, I saw the different ecosystems and learned so much about how everything had a purpose and fit together. After that trip, I wanted to know more about how minor changes could have significant consequences,” she said.

Emma Chuang

A smiling young woman wearing a black sweatshirt stands in a field; she is holding a cup and a phone.

Emma Chuang is majoring in marine studies at Oregon State University; she will be a senior in the fall. Emma’s major requires her to have an internship experience that is somewhat related to the coast. She did a lot of research and is happy to have found out about her internship at the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office that focuses on partnerships and traditional ecological knowledge. 

As Emma assists with strengthening relationships and collaboration between NOAA and Indigenous communities this summer, she’s also exploring potential career paths. 

“I really want to learn what it is like to work for NOAA and generally just gain more knowledge about myself and what I want to pursue in the future. I'm so excited to be working with NOAA and focusing on community partnerships,” she said. “I would like to get as much as I can out of this experience, network with people in the field, and discover different career paths.” 

Emma’s path to focusing on marine studies has evolved over the years.

“As a child, I grew up loving the ocean. When I was 14, I took my first online marine biology course and I ended up enjoying it. Over time I learned more about the issues surrounding the marine environment and wanted to do something about it. I originally wanted to major in marine biology, and then that turned into environmental sciences,” she explained. “But after finding marine studies, I knew that was the major for me. It is a flexible balance between sciences and humanities, and I'm excited to see where it leads me.”

Emily O’Keefe

A smiling young woman points to a sign that reads "Join the Carbon Fee and Dividend Movement"

Emily O’Keefe is studying integrative conservation and is focusing on climate policies such as national carbon pricing. She will be a senior in the fall at William and Mary in Virginia. We’re happy that her advisor noticed the internship opportunity and let Emily know about it!

Emily’s focus on climate is a good match as she is serving as our climate change and fish habitat intern. She will help synthesize information related to climate and will work with researchers and stakeholders on tracking marine heat waves. 

“I tend to think very large-scale about climate change and want to experience and better appreciate the climate work that is being done on smaller, especially local scales,” she said. 

Emily is personally motivated to learn more about climate change and related policies: “I got into minimalism a couple years ago and that was the main catalyst for my dedication to caring about the environment and climate change. On an even more personal and future-oriented note, I want to have kids someday and want to be able to say I did everything in my power to combat climate change to ensure a safe future for them.”

Emma Venarde

A smiling young woman on board a boat, wearing a lifejacket, ball cap, and sunglasses, holds a crab in each hand.

Emma will be a senior at Brown University in Rhode Island in the fall. She studies environmental science, with a focus on the environment and inequality—and she just declared an additional major: Music. In developing her summer 2023 plans, she searched online for NOAA internships. We’re delighted she was eager to learn some new skills about a new-to-her ecosystem and decided to apply. 

Emma wants to get lots of things out of her summer with us as our field technician intern, where she will support our operations on the water and on land. She’ll get to work with all that our field team does, from observational buoys to oyster reef restoration to fisheries science.

“I want to develop new field work skills and learn about what it is like to work at a government agency. I am interested in connecting the dots between the different things happening at the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office, especially science and communication,” she described. “I am also very excited to learn from all of the people I am meeting about their work and career paths.”

Emma’s love for nature and dedication to a healthy planet for all have guided her study for a long time. 

“I have been fascinated by ecosystems since I was a kid. I grew up watching a lot of David Attenborough documentaries and in kindergarten my nickname was ‘nature girl.’ Climate change crept into my consciousness and understanding as a kid and when I finally grasped the enormity of it, it was completely overwhelming,” she explained. “I study environmental science because of that childhood love of all things nature, but also because I care deeply about those who are currently feeling the impacts of climate change and other environmental issues as well as about my generation’s future.”

Last updated by NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office on July 03, 2023