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Spring semester begins Monday, January 25, with a mix of in-person instruction and expanded online classes. Visit Mason’s Safe Return to Campus Plan for COVID-19 updates.

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The National Park Service: from internship to full-time job

Brittany Grouge (nee Shamenek) graduated with her MS in Environmental Science and Policy in the spring of 2020.  While she was a student, she participated in an internship with the National Park Service (NPS) to assist with the natural history collections of parks in this region.  You can see some of her exhibits here:  https://www.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/nca-natural-history/index.html

Brittany shared a few words with us by email. 


My internship involved working with the National Park Service at the regional level on the storage, care, and maintenance of the natural history collections of parks in this region. Collections in this region include mammal, bird, reptile, insect, arachnid, invertebrate specimens, as well as paleontological, and geological specimens, Much of my work involved cataloging specimens, updating outdated taxonomy, inspecting them to note their condition over time, integrated pest management, and ensuring they were stored properly using the appropriate materials for the best long-term preservation. A large portion of time in museums is dedicated to maximizing storage space, while improving staff and researcher access to collections. This means that ensuring collections are well-organized and stored in the safest, most efficient manner is of the upmost importance to both long-term preservation of museum specimens and for research purposes. The museum specimens I was working with and their associated information primarily document the presence of species at particular places and times from the past, and have also proven valuable as a basis for research in many fields, including evolution, conservation, disease ecology, and environmental toxicology. Since the museum specimens are non-renewable resources, museums must ensure their preservation. Museum objects and specimens lose their value if these, or their associated data, are damaged or lost. This internship gave me the skills to curate natural history collections and taught me just how important museum collections truly are to science. The exhibit highlights not just this importance to science, but how these specimens can also have cultural or historical significance.    

Several months after graduation, I began working full-time for the National Park Service in the natural resource management field. It’s been a big adjustment from the many years I spent in academia, doing part-time work and internships, but I am thoroughly enjoying it and find myself learning something new every day!