Crystal Alexander, a senior forest wildlife management major, is completing a four-month internship as assistant director of Camp Habitat, a nature education and ecology camp for children. Located in Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in Fairbanks, Alaska, the camp’s mission is to provide young people with guided explorations of their natural surroundings through interactive, hands-on activities. Alexander served as a camp instructor for the previous two summers before taking on the role of assistant director intern.
What are your duties as assistant director?
My current position as assistant director began in April, and I worked at a distance until May 18, when I arrived in Fairbanks. My duties include preparing for the camp season by interviewing, hiring and training the instructors and counselors; updating the camp curriculum and library; and organizing camp supplies. I also assisted with administrative duties such as organizing recruitment events and getting campers registered. Once camp actually started I managed camp operations such as sign-ins, morning circle and coordinated guest speakers. Lastly, part of my duty is to fill in for instructors if needed and assure a safe physical and psychologically supportive environment for all children and staff.
How has this experience enhanced your undergraduate career?
This internship really pushed me into more of a “real-world” type of experience. I was no longer volunteering time here and there, or working part-time. Instead of teaching kids, I was instructing the staff on how to teach kids and designing new curriculums for future camps. I was definitely intimidated about the position when I first started – I almost felt under qualified. Despite that feeling, I have been able to channel the different things I have learned at ATCOFA into what I am doing here, and it has been a successful season.
What is your favorite aspect of the internship?
My favorite part of the internship is being able to work (mostly) outdoors and making the different connections. Camp Habitat is sponsored by Friends of Creamers Field, the Northern Alaska Environmental Center and the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. I share an office space with the director of the camp, the executive director of Friends of Creamers Field, a biologist and education coordinator with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game and an ornithologist of the refuge. Our guest speakers include individuals from the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, the Alaska Songbird Institute, the Reindeer Research Program, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, as well as ornithologists, botanists and other biologists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Just being able to speak with the different professionals from an array of fields on a daily basis is great.
How did you learn about the internship?
I was previously employed by Camp Habitat as an instructor for the summer of 2016 and 2017. I found out about an internship opportunity through a flyer posted on the school bulletin board at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. During January and February I spoke to the camp director about summer work, and he reached out to me when the position opened for assistant director. While my major at ATCOFA is wildlife management and not recreation and resource interpretation, that doesn’t necessarily designate me to only biology and wildlife management internships. I would suggest to everyone to not be afraid to branch out to different aspects of the natural resource field. Environmental education is a whole lot more fun when you know all the little fun facts about flora and fauna.