DURHAM, N.C.— Second-year Master of Environmental Management (MEM) student Aislinn McLaughlin spent her summer interning with American Rivers, a river conservation organization, in Durango, Colorado. 

Each summer, Nicholas School students complete internships with organizations around the world. These internships provide valuable opportunities to gain career-related experience and build a professional network. 

Duke Environment recently corresponded with McLaughlin, who is pursuing her MEM in Water Resources Management, to learn more about her experience. 

What are you doing at your summer internship? 

“I received generous funding from the Edna B. Sussman Foundation to intern for American Rivers with their Colorado River Basin Conservation Program in Durango, Colorado.  

I am working on several different projects for American Rivers, including an evaluation of watershed health programs and policies in other Southwestern states that might be replicable in Colorado, and an analysis of equitable access to rivers. I have also had the opportunity to work with some of American Rivers' partners in the area on initiatives such as water quality sampling for designated Outstanding Waters.” 

My experience with American Rivers has given me the latitude to explore my interests as they relate to water issues in the Colorado River Basin. The internship has allowed me to build connections with other water professionals in the West."

– Aislinn McLaughlin, MEM'22

How are you using the skills you've learned in school? How helpful has already having those skills been? 

“Having a set of technical skills established prior to my summer experience has been incredibly helpful. I was already familiar with how to use R software and ArcGis to collect and and analyze data and I have been able to use that prior knowledge to develop new skills in network and spatial analysis.  

Most of the research papers I have written over the course of the past academic year centered around Colorado, Western water law and water scarcity, which has been a useful background to have in a year where prolonged and deepening drought conditions continue to plague the Colorado River Basin.” 

How did the Nicholas School help you during your internship search? 

“I worked closely with Allison Besch at the Career and Professional Development Center to design a project proposal and complete my application for the Sussman Foundation. Allison was such a pleasure to work with and was instrumental in securing funding for my summer experience.” 

 How will this experience help you in your career? 

“After graduating from the Nicholas School, I plan to relocate back to the Western U.S. to work on issues at the intersection of water and equity.  

My experience with American Rivers has given me the latitude to explore my interests as they relate to water issues in the Colorado River Basin. The internship has allowed me to build connections with other water professionals in the West.  

I have appreciated the opportunity to meet and collaborate with so many brilliant individuals who are fiercely committed to protecting our rivers, and I hope to always maintain that same passion for my own work.”