My Experience as an Intern at Veterans Conservation Corps (VCC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

My Experience as an Intern at Veterans Conservation Corps (VCC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Written by VCC Intern Barney Boyer

Barney Boyer is currently an intern for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center. Boyer is assisting Northwest fisheries Science Center biologists with several different research projects that all have wild Pacific Northwest salmon conservation as priorities. During his internship, he is gathering environmental data and conducting surveys in the Snohomish and Elwa estuaries to identify the behaviors of wild fish populations in the Pacific Northwest.

Barney began his journey to the Northwest Fisheries Science Center as an Airmen in the United States Air Force. After three years as a civil engineer in the 49th Fighter Wing, he began his civilian life as an operations manager for Hilton International and Compass Group.  While working with the public in Chicago and Seattle, Boyer found himself fielding questions from consumers about the food and ingredients used in his operations and other questions about where specific food comes from, its cultivation and harvesting processes, and its level of sustainability.  Answering these questions, and working closely with growers and processors helped him to better understand how the anthropogenic processes affects the environment.

After taking college courses in Natural Resources Management he then found himself on a road into further academia, this time at the University of Illinois. Boyer’s experience and interest in Pacific Northwest Salmon, as a recreational angler, led him to frame his undergraduate research around the resident PNW salmon of the Great Lakes. After graduating, he moved back to the Seattle area and joined the Washington State Veterans Conservation Corps (VCC). This relationship led to an internship with NOAA and the Northwest Fisheries Science center in Mukilteo where he is currently assisting biologist and ecologist in field and lab research in conservation efforts of the Pacific Northwest Salmon.

Barney Boyer:

I started my internship at NOAA through an introduction with Jeremy Grisham who was the program manager for VCC internships. After a short interview process, it was decided that I would be a good fit for the internship program. Jeremy then introduced me to salmon conservation research biologists Casey Rice, Jason Hall, Anna Kagley, and Joshua Chamberlin at the Mukilteo Science Center, as well as VCC internship program managers Kim Pham and Sandor Saligi who have all been by my side throughout the internship process.

Soon I was out in the field riding on a NOAA research vessel with federal biologists learning about the ecology of salmon in the Pacific Northwest. I was learning how to execute sampling of threatened species catching fish in the estuaries and near shore areas of Puget Sound water sheds. I learned how to catch fish, identify and measure them, and how to use data sheets. I learned about habitat monitoring. I also worked in the Snohomish Estuary learning how to track sediment deposition using various instruments. Soon I was entering research data into spreadsheets, and building graphs and figures to explain the data using excel and statistical software.

I expressed to my mentors at NOAA that I wanted to use my internship here as a stepping-stone into a career. I then expressed an interest in taking on my own research project, the possibility of getting a peer reviewed article published, and moving on to graduate school after my internship was over. Everyone was extremely helpful, and excited to help me accomplish something great. We were soon discussing topics of interest and available data that we could use for an analysis.

Currently, I am finishing my last few months as an intern here at NOAA. I have learned so many new skills, provided analysis for a research project for Island County, executed many hours of field research and data collection, I have learned to drive research vessels, and I have learned to use various types of software and instruments related to the field research.  I am also in the final leg of completing a research paper on how seasonal temperature anomalies of the Snohomish Estuary effect abundance and distribution of non-indigenous warm water sunfish, and it will be ready for peer review in the coming weeks. Furthermore, I have recently been offered a research assistantship and a full tuition waver at Grand Valley State University to complete my Master’s Degree in Fisheries Biology. This was only made possible through my experience that I have gained here with the VCC and NOAA.This has really been the experience of a lifetime, and has catapulted me into a brand new career. I could not be more excited.

To learn more about VCC Internships and how to apply, please contact the Veterans Conservation Corps Internship Coordinator, Kim Pham at