Internship Spotlight: Maria Ciotola

 Environmental Science

Ecosystem Restoration

Graduation: 2018

Experience: Ohio EPA Internship Program and Lawhon & Associates Inc. Intern

Duration: May-August 2015 and June-August 2016

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For my first internship at Lawhon & Associates Inc., I had the opportunity to help out with Ecological Survey Reports for a specific project area often for road or bridge construction. For these, we would go out to the project area and conduct a field survey. This consisted of identifying wetland and upland areas, and identifying the major plants and the soil properties in those areas. If a wetland area was present, it would be delineated using a GPS unit to be uploaded in ArcGIS. If there was a stream in the area, the stream line would also be delineated using the GPS. Typically, my responsibilities were putting the data into the GPS unit and filling out the data forms. As time went on, I was able to identify a lot of the plants and do the soil identification on my own. They say you learn by doing, and it’s definitely true! Occasionally, the streams in the study area would qualify for a mussel survey and relocation. I had the opportunity to help with a couple of these, and one of them we used snorkels to look for the mussels a the bottom of the stream. The mussels we found were relocated to an area of the stream that would not be impacted by the construction project. Back in the office I would help with editing and preparing the reports from the field surveys. My favorite part of this internship was that it was a good mix of office and field work, and I kind of got the best of both worlds.

The following summer, I interned in the 401 department in the OEPA downtown Columbus office. Here, I helped out with Mitigation Site Reviews. For these, we would go out to a wetland mitigation site and see how the area is reacting to being mitigated. After the site review a follow up email was sent describing what could be improved and suggestions for moving forward. Mitigation sites have to meet certain requirements, and until they do the EPA will continue reviewing it. I kept a photo log at each site and edited permitting documents. I also had the opportunity to help out ODOT OES with a mussel survey and relocation. The survey was a two day job and we found about 4,000 mussels within the project area’s impact limits. We had to go to a Walmart near by and get laundry baskets to transport them in. We were carrying huge laundry baskets full of mussels with one person holding each side up the river to find a spot to relocate them. It was definitely a memorable experience and my favorite from that summer.

I was lucky enough that the civil engineering company my dad works for does a lot of work with Lawnhon & Associates, and I found out about the position through him and applied. As for Ohio EPA, I found out about all of their internship opportunities at a summer internship fair at OSU. Career and internship fairs are a great way to learn about internship opportunities and to get your foot in the door. As a piece of advice, Ohio EPA seemed to look for previous field experience. I would say to any future student to utilize all of the opportunities SENR has to offer. There are a lot of volunteer and research opportunities, and participating in them can help build a great resume.

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