Summer Internships Teach Valuable Lessons

September 13, 2019

Eight students spent this summer working with the Northeast Fisheries Science Center's Atlantic Salmon Ecosystems Research Team at facilities in Massachusetts and Maine. It was an experience they won't soon forget.

woman on boat holding Atlantic sturgeon

Intern Miranda Furnari holds an Atlantic sturgeon during summer research in the Penobscot River. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

With summer winding down and college students returning to school to start the fall semester, most will talk about what they did this summer. For eight students working with the Atlantic Salmon Ecosystems Research Team, that meant hands-on learning about Atlantic salmon and other sea-run fish. They worked at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s Woods Hole Laboratory on Cape Cod and Maine Field Station in Orono. Their summer was spent on rivers, at fish hatcheries, and in labs from Massachusetts to Maine, including facilities of Maine’s Department of Marine Resources. Some of what they learned was academic, some practical—how to repel bugs, operate heavy machinery, and handle endangered fish. Some was social—working as a team and being open to new experiences. 

student releases salmon smolts into river

Owen VanDerAa releases smolts caught in traps at a dam fish passage back to the river. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

Owen VanDerAa     

Ecology and Environmental Science Major, Economics Minor

University of Maine, Orono

Owen spent the summer at Maine’s Department of Marine Resources in Jonesboro working on Atlantic salmon freshwater assessments and research. His tasks varied: cleaning tanks, feeding fish in a hatchery, fry stocking, trapping smolt and adults at a fish ladder to see what fish are making it through. He also worked on salmon habitat and river enhancement in the Narraguagus River. He loves fish, and since he studies resource management he had hoped his internship would provide a better understanding of the status of the resource. It did that, and more. “I learned how to handle salmon at the fry, smolt and adult stages of life, and also how to work heavy machinery. I now have a much greater understanding of the current state of the Atlantic salmon population and of their life cycles, and learned new ideas for salmon conservation."

student in river fish passage at a dam

Andy Clement

Andy Clement stands in a fish passage at a dam on the Narraguagus River. Photo: NOAA Fisheries     

Marine Science Major, First Year Graduate Student in Marine Policy, Offshore Wind Turbine Project     

University of Maine, Orono

Andy is interested in the human aspect of fisheries and the jobs fisheries provides. He spent the summer working with Maine’s Department of Marine Resources in Jonesboro, working on Atlantic salmon freshwater assessments and research in the Narraguagus River. He hoped to get a better understanding of how scientists assess the health of an ecosystem from the perspective of the fish stock and its habitat. His tended the smolt and adult fish traps at fish passages at dams along the river. He also worked with the non-profit Project SHARE (Salmon Habitat and River Enhancement) to return the Narraguagus River to a healthy river with a natural flow and path. He said, “I have learned so much that I will carry with me in my future academic and career ventures, from the impacts we are having on river ecosystems, to what a healthy river looks like and how we can improve a river to try to restore endangered species like Atlantic salmon. I also learned how important outreach is and the importance of building a positive relationship with the community.”


Miranda Lambert with an Atlantic sturgeon in the Penobscot River. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

Miranda Furnari

Marine Science Major

University of Maine, Orono

Miranda is heading into her senior year at the University of Maine, where she has been interested in studying sturgeon populations. During her summer internship she wanted to broaden her knowledge of marine life in general and sturgeon populations in particular, especially how these fish are being affected by other species and the environment. She got her wish. As a research technician on a project studying sturgeon habitat, predator-prey interactions and population dynamics, she experienced the full range of a scientist’s tasks. From boat expeditions and handling prehistoric fish to mending nets, Miranda also collected and entered valuable information into a database that will be used in assessments that examine Penobscot River sturgeon populations. “This was an incredible experience that allowed me to expand on what I already knew as well as grow into a new knowledge of marine and freshwater science. I learned a great deal, experienced new things, was exposed to things pertaining to my major, and had the best time doing it.”  


Spencer Campbell at the Milford adult salmon trap. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

Spencer Campbell

Wildlife Ecology Major

University of Maine, Orono

Growing up, Spencer Campbell was fascinated with water and what lived in it. This summer he had a chance to spend time on the water supporting the Maine Department of Marine Resources in Bangor. He monitored the annual returns of endangered Atlantic salmon to the Penobscot River at the Milford fishlift, where more than 1,000 adult salmon returned, the highest run since 2011. Spencer also supported broodstock collection, adult fish that are sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife hatchery for spawning. He also monitored other fish coming through the fish-way and removed invasive species, and stocked river herring from the Penobscot in lakes and ponds around the river’s watershed to create new breeding sites for river herring. Later in the summer he worked on habitat restoration projects with Project SHARE, a local non-profit organization that improves habitat for Atlantic salmon in the Narraguagus River. “This internship exceeded my expectations. I had the experience of a lifetime working with the Department of Marine Resources, and want to continue to work in this field.”


Stay tuned! Each week in September we will be adding two more student intern profiles. 


Last updated by Northeast Fisheries Science Center on September 13, 2019