Taking hold of opportunities: SCA and NPS


Written by April Hamblin, SCA ’11 Yellowstone National Park, as part of the National Park Service Academy. The NPS Academy is a partnership between SCA and NPS designed to build a 21st century workforce for America’s national parks: highly motivated, contemporarily skilled, and ethnically diverse.

Me, GIS and maps at Yellowstone.

Opportunities are spoken of often, yet one must pursue these opportunities to even have a chance. SCA and the National Park Service (NPS) are organizations that help people take hold of opportunities.  These organizations worked together to make my summer at Yellowstone National Park unforgettable. 

My work over the summer was mainly for NPS as a Biological (Entomology) and GIS Intern. This basically meant that I would be working with the pollinator survey as well as various projects involving GIS and maps. I came to Yellowstone with this idea in mind, hoping that I could learn quickly and gain hands-on experience with GIS systems and mapping.

First day of work. The view outside my window.

Most days I usually wondered what the day had in store for me because while the GIS workers had a set schedule of hours, most of us did not have set daily activities. For the first three weeks, when my background check was not cleared to use government computers, my days were spent traveling around Yellowstone collecting GPS points of interpretational signs and recycling areas throughout the park as well as filing bee related paperwork. I learned how to use GPS units and the software associated with each. I was also trained in general Yellowstone protocol such as how to use bear spray, how to react to approaching animals and other safety regulations, and how to use a radio.

Once I received clearance and was able to use a government computer, I began taking GIS training courses online, was able to help others with their projects on the computer, and started working more with my own projects. The two main projects that the GIS department laid in my hands were the pollinator survey and the grave survey.

My day putting out bee bowls for the pollinator survey. Am I really getting paid to be here?

The pollinator survey is a bee survey conducted by a scientist named Sam Droege and occurred in about 60 other national parks as well as Yellowstone. It was very exciting and humbling to work on this project. All of the bees I collected will forever have my name associated with them. I feel honored and appreciated.  This pollinator survey was my deciding factor in accepting this internship and was my favorite part of working at Yellowstone.

I have to admit, when I was first given the grave survey, I thought that it would be upsetting. While it got a bit gloomy when an entire day was spent at a graveyard, it was also very interesting. Graves hold culture and history, emotions and lives. I did not appreciate their art before starting this work.

Working at Yellowstone really opened my eyes to career options. Yellowstone will always be a special place for me.

All of the work that I completed for the NPS and SCA has let me grow mentally and personally, literally altering parts of my life with this experience. I was able to work with the NPS and the SCA in the first national park, Yellowstone.

While this is just a story of my experience, there is a much larger picture here. The NPS and SCA are two organizations that focus on conserving nature for the future. With the interns, volunteers, employees, and support, the NPS and SCA are able to do this and more; they are able to motivate the current population with their leadership to take action and become environmentally friendly. Not only will the national parks be conserved, but the entire natural world could be conserved for the future generations.

View pictures from the NPS Academy Alternative Spring Break session in March at Grant Teton National Park.