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REEF Marine Conservation Internship

REEF is a non-profit, marine conservation organization with citizen science, education, and research programs. Participants in the Marine Conservation Internship program support REEF’s educational programming and general operations from the REEF Campus in Key Largo, Florida. The REEF Campus, with an Interpretive Center and nature trails, serves as an educational center for visitors and groups. It is also the Headquarters for supporting a membership of over 70,000 individuals engaging in REEF’s international programs.

REEF Marine Conservation Interns gain leadership experience as they engage in activities focused on citizen science, community outreach, and education. They learn skills including partnership development, non-profit operations, donor relations, communication, marketing and promotions, data management, event planning, graphic design, and public speaking. They also have ample opportunities to enjoy all that the Florida Keys has to offer in their free time, including diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and interfacing with other non-profits and government agencies in the area.

Program Overview

REEF Interns support the organization’s innovative marine conservation and education projects, working as part of a dynamic and fun team in the beautiful Florida Keys. Interns have varied opportunities to be involved in both the office and the field, and support REEF’s marine conservation research, education, and outreach programs. REEF Interns play a key role in the day-to-day operations of REEF, and gain valuable insight in to the workings of a non-profit ocean organization. Interns work closely with all REEF team members. Ideal candidates for the internship program are passionate about the ocean, and are detail-oriented, organized, thrive on variety, and take initiative.

This unpaid program is open to college students with at least 2 years of coursework, as well as recent graduates. Four interns serve in each session (January – May and June – December). An intensive summer internship (June – August) is also sometimes available. Start and end dates are flexible depending on University schedules and other school or work commitments. REEF’s Lead Internship program provides qualified Marine Conservation Interns the opportunity to stay with the organization in a specialized capacity for up to a year beyond the original session.

Marine Conservation Intern Responsibilities and Opportunities

Program activities and tasks vary by internship session depending on the organization’s current projects and priorities. Responsibilities include, but may not be limited to:

  • Engaging with and assisting REEF members and donors, over the phone and via email, as well as in person at events
  • Assisting REEF Campus visitors, including answering questions about REEF’s programs and processing in-person purchases from the REEF store
  • Filling and mailing online store orders
  • Conducting educational programing, including Ocean Explorers Summer Camp, Classroom Programs, and Field Courses
  • Coordinating and implementing special events like the monthly Fish & Friends seminar series, annual REEF Fest celebration, and Lionfish Derby Series
  • Creating promotional and marketing materials such as flyers and social media content
  • Updating web content and social media platforms
  • Facilitating invasive lionfish education, outreach, and control programs
  • Participating in conservation field work and data management

Interns are sometimes able to implement independent projects at REEF related to their areas of interest. For example, a graphic design major could create new infographic posters or an education major could create fish identification lesson plans for elementary school classrooms. Interns are provided professional development and networking opportunities, and are able to interact with a variety of other organizations and agencies throughout the Florida Keys and South Florida region. There are also frequent opportunities to dive, snorkel, and kayak in the region, depending on the Intern’s interest and training.

Program Qualifications

The Marine Conservation Internship is intended for students currently enrolled in or who have recently graduated from an undergraduate or graduate degree program, or who have equivalent work experience. At least two years of college coursework is preferred. Proficiency with desktop computers and office software, as well as excellent written and oral communication skills are preferred. Highly positive attitude and aptitude for working as a self-starter in a fast-paced, non-profit organization is a must. Successful applicants are detail-orientated with strong organizational skills, and are able to work in a diverse and collaborate team across multiple disciplines. A strong interest in ocean life, marine conservation, citizen science, and diving is a plus. Participants from disciplines outside marine science are also encouraged to apply. The Internship Program is open to applicants in the US and abroad, but international applicants need to secure the necessary travel documents.

Due to limited public transportation options in Key Largo, interns must have reliable vehicular transportation during their internship. Although not required, it is highly recommended that interns who plan to scuba dive have their own dive gear. Diving during free time is a benefit of the program and is not an internship requirement.

Program Term, Compensation, Work Environment

The Marine Conservation Internship Program is a 35 hour per week commitment and includes weekend and evening activities. Interns are given a half day each work week for free time out of the office to dive/snorkel/kayak (often discounted or free of charge thanks to support from REEF’s Conservation Partners), as well as volunteer in the community. The internship is an unpaid posistion, but scholarship opportunities may be available. Subsidized intern housing is also available. The REEF Internship Program is supervised by David Ehlert, REEF Campus Coordinator, and the program is based at REEF Campus in Key Largo, Florida.

Benefits

Although the Marine Conservation Internship is unpaid, the benefits of interning at REEF are plentiful:

- Network with leaders in marine science, SCUBA diving, underwater photography, and conservation
- Exposure to various non-profit educational and environmental organizations
- Experience in Florida and Caribbean fish identification and field methodology
- Teach individuals and visiting education groups about the marine environment
- Contribute to a high preforming team of marine professionals
- Build a diverse skill set by working on a range of projects
- Develop skills and gain first-hand experience to leverage in the early stages of your career as an environmental leader
- Receive college credit, if appropriate
- Letters of recommendation provided by request upon successful completion of the internship
- Opportunity to receive training certifications from local dive shops and instructors, where applicable
- Make long-lasting friendships with like-minded individuals
- Live in the beautiful, sunny Florida Keys, where the ocean is your backyard
- Opportunities to dive, snorkel, kayak and volunteer in the Florida Keys

Housing

REEF provides a furnished house during the internship and covers a portion of the rental cost. Each intern contributes $550 each month toward the cost of housing. All utilities and high-speed internet are included in this price. Additional living costs vary based on individual expenditures.

Typical Activities of REEF Marine Conservation Interns

Supporting Non-profit Operations:  A significant portion of the internship involves supporting business functions and member relations. Typical tasks include answering the phone, responding to emails, developing marketing materials, shipping out store orders, and coordinating with partners and the public. There is never a dull day in the office!

Community Outreach: Interns represent REEF and increase the public's awareness about marine conservation and ocean ecosystems at community events. Interns set up interactive displays and talk with the public at events such as seafood festivals, art shows, fishing tournaments, science nights, and boat shows throughout South Florida.

Teaching Workshops and Seminars: Interns have the opportunity to engage with the public by giving presentations on fish identification, marine ecology, and invasive lionfish. Audiences include adults, as well as elementary, high school, and college students. REEF Interns build confidence and gain public speaking skills throughout the semester.

Data Collection and Management: Some interns assist in REEF's ongoing lionfish and invasive/exotic monitoring projects in South Florida. Duties may include recording invasive/exotic species sightings, conducting fish population surveys, lionfish collection and removal, and lionfish dissections.

Assisting with Lionfish Derbies: Interns help organize and implement REEF's Lionfish Derby Series, hosted annually throughout Florida. Intern responsibilities at derbies include registering teams, measuring lionfish, filleting lionfish, dissecting lionfish, and educating the public. 

**The internship presents many volunteer opportunities for diving, snorkeling, kayaking and working with partner organizations.  All offsite volunteer activities are completely voluntary and conducted during the Intern’s free time and at their own risk. REEF supports these volunteer opportunities by making introductions to partners and providing time off on weekdays for Interns to volunteer.  Many local dive shops offer diving at no cost to participants in the Marine Conservation Internship Program. Some dive operators will offer dive certification at reduced costs.  All volunteer activities, including diving, are not a requirement or responsibility of the Marine Conservation Internship program.