Not a Typical Summer Internship

Written by Maddie Bird
    Wednesday, 24 June 2015
Summer Interns Summer Interns

Summer internships tend to get a pretty bad rap; most people hear the phrase and immediately conjure up images of windowless offices with fluorescent lighting, mind numbing data entry tasks, and endless coffee runs. At the Urban Ecology Center, however, interns do pretty much everything but sit in an office! Over the last two weeks, the Center’s thirty summer interns participated in training and teambuilding activities at all three branches, and we had a blast doing it. Check out these highlights!

Here are some of the highlights:


We learned so many new icebreakers during our training, it almost felt like we were at summer camp. We played interactive games involving beanbags and bed sheets, educational games such as camouflage and the extinction game, and silly games like pterodactyl and ninja just for fun!

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Interns play ninja while on a break from hiking

Nature Hike

Tim Vargo, the Center’s Manager of Research and Community Science, took us on a nature hike during the third day of intern training. We explored Riverside Park and learned about the rich history of the land since its development by world-famous architect Frederick Law Olmsted in the late 1800s. One of the most dazzling aspects of the hike was that while walking along the river, we could hardly tell we were surrounded by the city. That is, of course, until we emerged from the trails to grab a sweet treat at Culver’s!

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Tim teaches the interns about the different plants found in Riverside Park

Invertebrate Sampling

During our nature hike with Tim, we also had the opportunity to don hip waders and venture into the Milwaukee River for invertebrate sampling. We learned that the Urban Ecology Center conducts invertebrate sampling with the help of schoolchildren and volunteers in order to test the health of the ecosystems within the river. We shuffled through the mud to loosen up the critters living on the bottom, scooped them up in nets, and identified and counted each organism we found before releasing them back into the river. The Center regularly records this data, then sends it to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for their records on river quality throughout the state. 

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Dan, I'Nity, Megan, Aaron, Anna, and Brandice made a great team collecting invertebrates from the river

Staff-Intern Day

Later on in the week, we got together with the entire Urban Ecology Center staff so we could all get to know one another better. This meant attempting to learn a bunch of new names and faces through games and icebreakers led by Beth Heller, who somehow managed to learn all of OUR names on the very first day! We also had a scavenger hunt in and around the Riverside Park building, where we practiced our social media skills by adding pictures to Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #staffinternday. 

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Staff and Interns getting to know one another

Bike Ride to Menomonee Valley

The second week of training involved many hands on activities, including a bike ride to the Menomonee Valley branch led by Kirsten Angela, the Center’s Environmental Education Manager. We biked both the Oak Leaf Trail and the Hank Aaron State trail during the fourteen mile round trip ride, stopping along the way for reflection time in Lakeshore State Park, and ice cream at Purple Door!

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Brandice and Claire stopping for a break in Lakeshore State Park

Paddling Trip

Perhaps my favorite activity of the training process was the canoeing and kayaking trip led by Mike Zeigler, the Center’s Community Programs Specialist. We went all the way out to a lake in Oconomowoc, where we learned the ins and outs of taking community members and summer camp kids out on the water safely and enjoyably. 

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Erin and Maia paddling on the lake

So while my fellow business students sit in their cubicles and make spreadsheets all summer, I will be outside, having adventures with the other Urban Ecology Center interns. I can’t wait to see where all of our different internships take us this summer, and to document all of the learning and growth that takes place here. For more pictures from the two weeks of intern training, check out our Facebook page! And be sure to keep checking back here for more blog posts featuring all the summer interns, and much, much more.  

Photo Credit: Taken by Jeff McAvoy
Maddie Bird

Maddie Bird

Maddie Bird is our summer marketing intern, and will be covering events at the Center during our busiest season. Maddie grew up in Milwaukee, and is currently a business student studying Marketing at Temple University in Philadelphia. She has a passion for nature, and is incredibly excited to have the opportunity to learn about and promote all of the ways the Urban Ecology Center enriches the community through ecological education and research. In her spare time Maddie loves to bike, explore, and take photographs.


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