Nat Blackford, a second-year Master of Environmental Management/Master of Forestry (MEM/MF) student, was a Stanback Coastal Resiliency Fellow at the National Parks Conservation Association this year.

Each summer, Nicholas School of the Environment 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 caught up with Blackford to learn more about his experience. 

What are you doing at your internship and how are you using the skills you've learned at the Nicholas School?

Nathan Blackford
Nat Blackford

"This summer I am working with the National Parks Conservation Association to research and tell stories about coastal resiliency in the National Park System. There are 88 coastal parks in the park system and many of them are among the most visited—places like Gateway National Recreation Area in New York and New Jersey, Everglades National Park in Florida, and Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina. Our coastal parks are threatened by a range of climate impacts, such as sea level rise, ocean acidification, storm surge, saltwater intrusion and coastal erosion, which our more inland parks do not have to deal with. Because of this, they deserve some additional attention. I have been compiling research on some of these coastal impacts and the adaptation and mitigation actions that are being taken. Using this research, I am developing map-based ESRI Story Maps to help communicate coastal resilience issues and solutions to a wider audience."

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

"Whether it was almost daily emails about internship opportunities or advice on writing a cover letter, the Nicholas School was very helpful in helping me obtain an internship. I ended up getting a fellowship through the Stanback Fellowship Program, which is a partnership between the Nicholas School, the Stanback family and many non-profit organizations. My fellowship would not have existed without the work of the Nicholas School staff and generous funding from Fred and Alice Stanback."

How will this experience help you in your career? 

"My experience was wonderful. I got to meet and connect with amazing people around the country who are engaged in interesting and important work. I got to sharpen my skills in geospatial data management and cartography. And finally, I got valuable experience working at the nexus of climate adaptation, coastal issues and public lands. My experience over the summer will benefit me for years to come."


Read more internship Q+A stories