Halfway Finished, Not Slowing Down
This summer is flying by! It’s hard to believe we only have three weeks left at our internships. For me at the Planning Office, July is the month of events: community presentations and workshops galore! My first experience with this side of the internship was last weekend at the Chippewa Yacht Club. We asked if we might speak about Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) and shoreline resiliency (the two projects I’ve been working on) to the Yacht Club at their annual meeting. Chippewa Bay happens to be a priority area for both projects. I met my supervisor John in the Courthouse parking lot at 7:40 am on Saturday for a sunny ride to Hammond. I’d put together a couple of short PowerPoint presentations for this purpose; John printed them as handouts to pass around. We arrived in the Bay just in time to meet our ride at the small marina. The meeting was on a private island and required a short boat trip to access. On the way over, John suggested he present on EAB and I talk about shoreline resiliency since I’ve spent more time with that project. We hadn’t discussed yet how the actual presentation would go, but I felt okay about winging a presentation only meant to last a few minutes. We arrived just as Club members were beginning to dock. They had to raft up their boats due to limited dock space. Inside the grand old house there was coffee and doughnuts, and lots of hugs- it was a big reunion of seasonal residents.
They settled into chairs and benches packed tightly into a large room with wood paneling and high ceilings. The building was truly beautiful. We were first on the agenda. I’m not the best public speaker; it’s something I’m working on. I certainly wasn’t articulate in front of 75 strangers with less preparation than I would have liked, but I hope I got my key points across. The main message was “keep in touch to hear what the consultant who hasn’t even been hired yet says.” As soon as it was over, we ducked out and asked our ride for a lift back to shore. After some shuffling of rafted boats, we were on our way. John suggested I rehearse future presentations in front of the office staff, so I guess he saw some room for improvement as well.
Apparently, we caused a bit of a stir. The residents had a number of questions, particularly about EAB. One year-round resident called the office on Monday asking to be trained as a local resource on the issue. That was just one ten-minute briefing, and I have at least six more presentations and workshops to go, not including the two workshops I’ll be attending as a participant. As the weeks go by, I find I can take better advantage of the autonomy I’ve been given as an intern. I appreciate that how I spend my day isn’t dictated by anyone else. I’ve been told what the end goals are, and how I approach the projects is largely up to me. I have been organizing most of the presentations on EAB with a fellow intern from St. Lawrence University program Nature Up North. Despite my autonomy, there are always professionals around to provide feedback on my work and teach me new skills. My latest endeavor has involved tinkering around with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to map flood damage reports. I’ve been wanting to learn GIS for some time now, and now I have some real-world practical experience before I take the class this fall.
My time at the SLC Planning Office has been a whirlwind, and these next few weeks will be the busiest yet. I’m looking forward to the upcoming opportunities to engage with local communities and inform people about environmental issues of local interest and concern.