Taking a Giant Stride: Internship Opportunities

There are many opportunities available to divers who are interested in exploring marine-related fields. Over the past year, I gained firsthand exposure to a few of these programs. As a summer DAN intern, I learned about diving physiology, medicine and research at DAN Headquarters in Durham, N.C., and in the fall, I visited the Oceans Research team in Mossel Bay, South Africa where interns help study sharks and cetaceans.
Case Study: Mossel Bay Marine Lab Internship Program
Stepping off the bus in Mossel Bay following 34 hours of travel, I was relieved to see my brother, John, and his internship field coordinator waiting to pick me up. I grabbed my backpack and we hopped in the Battle Cat, a unique piece of automobile craftsmanship and arguably the most reliable of the Oceans Research fleet. We headed to the intern abode where I collapsed into the dorm-style bunk bed to catch up on sleep before our early-morning dolphin watch.

John began his internship through Oceans Research at the Mossel Bay Marine Lab, and I was joining him to observe the participatory role the program offered in apex predator research. Oceans Research has internship opportunities in both South Africa and Namibia, offering training and experience in marine research and conservation efforts. In Mossel Bay, Project Great White Shark engages interns in population, identification, genetic, behavioral, physiological, ecological and socioeconomic studies of these apex predators.

Using a bait rope attached to a tuna head and a mixture of seawater and sardine parts, known as chum, interns lured white sharks towards the boat to document estimated size and distinguishable markings of the sharks and to classify the resident bay population. All of the interns onboard adopted roles including bait roper, spotter, chummer and data monitor to collaboratively collect as much identifying information as possible.

Benthic sharks like this pajama shark were measured, weighed, and tagged before being released.
Whereas chum trips focused on white sharks, trapping trips were aimed at catching benthic sharks to measure, weigh, tag and release, thus establishing baseline data to help monitor shifts as anthropogenic changes occur within the bay. Other program projects involve aquarium, environmental and cetacean research. Although diving is not a requirement of the internship, dive training and weekend dive trips are offered and free-diving techniques are used for additional data collection.
Take a Giant Stride
Myriad opportunities for students exist for those with diverse diving interests involving the underwater world. Many organizations, such as Oceans Research, include internships offering college students or recent graduates a taste of potential professional positions as they begin to sculpt their futures. Internships range in focus including marketing, marine technology, media, coral reef ecology and more, allowing students to find their niche and develop their goals.

A highly sought after diving internship is the Our World Underwater Scholarship Society's (OWUSS) Rolex Scholarship. Three scholars are selected from three different geographical locations (North America, Australasia and Europe) to spend a year indulging in hands-on underwater and aquatic-related activities of their choosing. Guided by mentors all around the world, this year's scholars learned about cave diving, marine biology and ecology, archaeology, photography, ocean conservation, and even spent a week at DAN Headquarters taking instructor training classes, touring Duke University's hyperbaric chamber and learning about the medical call center and diving research.

OWUSS also supports additional internships through other agencies such as the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA). REEF offers training for volunteer divers in fish identification and surveys and exposes summer interns to a wide range of environmental nonprofit activities including public outreach, administrative organization and seminar participation. Responsibilities of the MBA Diving Safety internship include supporting the Dive Safety Office by implementing dive program policies, maintaining equipment, in-water diving activities and diver training support, and potentially helping the husbandry staff with collection and care.

Students with research interests can apply to the Scientific Diving Internship offered through the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) or the Research Internship offered through Divers Alert Network (DAN). AAUS trains the intern to become qualified to participate in underwater field-work and introduce him to scientific diving careers. DAN facilitates a mentor-intern relationship to broaden abilities within the intern's specific interests, which can include epidemiology, dive physiology and hyperbaric medicine.

As part of the DAN research internship, I helped on studies at Duke University's hyperbaric chamber including one on immersion pulmonary edema.

High school seniors and college freshmen from New England are eligible for the Frank Scalli Annual Summer Internship through the Boston Sea Rovers, an organization dedicated to increasing awareness and appreciation for the marine environment. The selected scholar receives dive training and equipment to use throughout the internship and learns from professionals in the realms of underwater photography and filmmaking, marine engineering, equipment manufacturing and educational outreach, depending on the interests of the scholar.

A little curiosity and dedication can open up doors to anyone searching for a potential career path. Internships offer a unique window into the working world, providing insight as to how diving can be incorporated into a career, without immediately committing to employment. Ample organizations including National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Park Service (NPS), Marine Advanced Technology Education Center (MATE), and many others offer additional internship opportunities.

Discover your passions, seize any opportunity, and you never know where an internship might take you. My internship experiences have helped guide my professional career path, and I feel fortunate that my time as a DAN intern lead to a full-time position in the DAN Research department.
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