“FiN’tern”: A Unique Type of Internship

Written by Beth Heller
    Thursday, 05 July 2018
“FiN’tern”: A Unique Type of Internship

Famous Wisconsin conservationist, Aldo Leopold was a hunter and fisherman. Not only did these activities provide him with food, they also connected him deeply to the land. In “The Sand County Almanac” he described how draining and channelizing along the Mississippi River wetlands aimed to bring economic growth to the area, but instead left his boyhood marsh “impoverished.” While some may consider fishing a controversial activity, we at the Urban Ecology Center understand that with proper guidance, it can launch a life-long commitment to protecting our local freshwater systems.

With that in mind, we partnered with the DNR to provide an educational approach that focuses on fish ecology and conservation, water habitat protection, and fishing as a source of food. Central to this effort is a “FiN’tern” -- an intern trained in fishing techniques and conservation education. Each year a FiN’tern works with UEC education staff to provide fishing experiences to urban children and families in their local waterways. Every summer since 2005 we have had a FiN’tern on our staff. This year we are happy to share that we will have two FiN’terns, both sponsored by the DNR, working together to create safe and educational fishing opportunities throughout the summer.

African American boy is sitting along the lagoon, smiling at the very first fish he's ever caught.

According to long-time friend, conservationist and angler education guru, Theresa Stabo, “We started Fishing in the Neighborhood (FiN) to try to move beyond the one-and-done model of fishing clinics and encourage people to form a positive relationship with their local waters. While annual clinics are well-intended and may whet the appetite for more, we realized that people needed more follow-up to gain proficiency in angling skills and FiN’terns, as the interns are affectionately known, provide those opportunities. We hope that these programs will help spark a love affair between people and the bountiful aquatic resources in their communities.”

Theresa has 35 years of experience in the field and through her training program, she ensures that our FiN’terns have the technical skills needed to safely and effectively run programs.

Erick Anderson, Community Program Coordinator, provides instruction and mentoring in environmental education techniques for groups learning about fishing. He shares, “Fishing was one of the first ways I connected with nature as a kid,” he said. “I see people of all ages fishing in the [Washington Park] lagoon,” he continued, “and we’ve seen, time and time again that fishing [brings] new people of all ages into our branch where we can begin building a mentoring relationship with them. I’m proud to be a part of the FiN partnership.”

Join our FiN’terns this summer and discover local fish species and the habitats upon which they depend. This is a public-private partnership that you can experience first-hand!

Beth Heller

Beth Heller

Senior Director of Education and Strategic Planning, Beth received her Masters in Business Administration from UW-Milwaukee in 2005, where she received the Outstanding Business Plan award for a plan to launch a branch of the Urban Ecology Center in Washington Park. She graduated from Lawrence University in Appleton, WI in 1994 with a B.A. degree in Biology and Education. Beth began working at the Urban Ecology Center in 2000 to combine her love of the city with her appreciation of nature. Beth loves to sail, bike, sing and hike.


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