Did you know that REEF hosts twelve Marine Conservation Interns each year? This important program is vital to REEF's success and serves as a formative experience for these young adults. As a new feature in our newsletter, we will periodically check in with intern alumni to see where they are now and how their time at REEF impacted their journey. This month we visited with Laura Palomino.

When were you a REEF intern?

I was a Marine Conservation Intern from January to May 2018, and then stayed on as an Education Leadership Intern (ELI) from May 2018 to August 2018. 

What did you like the most about your internship?

The field of marine conservation is very large, and it can be intimidating to figure out what you want to do specifically. So having the opportunity be involved in so many different projects with REEF ranging from research, communications, public outreach and education helped me realize what my interests are and where I want my career to go. Which, if you were wondering, is focusing on environmental law and policy!

Was there a goal or focus you had going into the internship?

Absolutely! After graduating college, I wanted to explore the education and outreach side of conservation and become a better public speaker, so throughout both my internships I was focused on learning to lead and create education and outreach programs. Public speaking was not my strong suit when I first started at REEF, but after working and learning from Ellie Splain for eight months, I've become very confident in my abilities as a communicator. 

Were there any big projects you worked on during the internship that had an impact on you?

My intern project was being a working group member for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary marine debris project called "Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys". Through this project I helped develop protocols and materials to train the dive community on rules, regulations and permits required to lead marine debris cleanup within the marine sanctuary. This project was my first introduction to how federal and state environmental agencies operate and the intricacies of managing the interests of different stakeholders such as commercial fishermen, dive shop owners and scientists. 

What are you doing now?

Currently, I am working for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Department of Marine Fisheries Management as an Environmental Specialist at Biscayne National Park. My job is the result of joint state and federal efforts to manage the lionfish population in Florida. Luckily, this means I get to spend a lot time in the field SCUBA diving and spearing lionfish! 

How has the REEF internship influenced or supported where you are now?

Interning with REEF has been pivotal in starting my career in marine conservation because I had the opportunity to meet and work with very influential people in conservation and gain professional experience working for an internationally-known nonprofit. Additionally, the lionfish research and education I did with REEF helped me develop the skills needed for my job today!