Algae and Water Quality Monitoring Tech Intern

Greening Youth Foundation in Mammoth Cave, KY

  • Type: Full Time
position filled
The need for preserving all of our nation's history has never been greater, and we're counting on you! HBCUI (Historically Black Colleges and Universities Internship) is a 10-week summer experience brought to you by Greening Youth Foundation in partnership with the U.S. National Park Service. As a part of HBCUI, students from schools around the country are putting their unique skills and talents to work in preserving the contributions of African Americans to our nation's history and culture. Participants gain real-world, on-the-job experience as they explore federal careers in the U.S. National Park Service.
Position Title Algae and Water Quality Monitoring Tech Intern
NPS Unit Name Mammoth Cave National Park – Mammoth Cave, KY
Position Dates May 25th – July 31st
Position Description Mammoth Cave National Park has been working with Tennessee State University for approximately 12 years on numerous projects on surface and cave water quality. These projects have included several faculty
members and numerous undergraduate and graduate students. These faculty include Dr. De'Etra Young, and Dr. William Sutton (Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences) and Dr. Tom Byl. Dr. Byl is a USGS scientist who is also on the faculty of Tennessee State University. Tom's position is part of a cooperative agreement between the USGS and TSU for 21 years. Tom is regarded as a faculty member by TSU through their agreement and has served as a student research mentor to over 200 students, ranging from undergraduate to Ph.D. students. Evidence of the strong research partnership between TSU, MACA, and the USGS can be realized through the incredible number of proceedings publications and presentations over the past 12 years (greater than 50).
The current proposed internship is part of a larger project that Mammoth Cave, USGS, and TSU have been developing over the past year. This project entitled "Distribution and Occurrence of Cyanobacteria and
Cyanotoxins in the Surface and Cave Waters at Mammoth Cave National Park" will determine which waters and algae areas in the park are subject to producing potentially harmful cyanotoxins and try to elucidate the
conditions under which these form. It is envisioned that the interns selected for this project will likely continue work on the project at TSU following the internship and that this internship will potentially lead to
expanding their Mammoth Cave work as an undergraduate or graduate thesis. The specific role of the proposed HBCUI Intern in this project will be as follows. The intern, with their mentors, will assist in monitoring algae control in the cave, collect and analyze water samples from the cave and surface, and assist in tests for harmful algal blooms. They will then assist in implementing sampling protocols by collecting algae samples from select cave locations and processing samples that will be sent to the USGS Microbial Lab in Columbus, OH (filtering, documentation, freezing).
The data from their work will be the primary product. In addition, the intern will help test sampling and analysis protocols. In addition to having the intern present the results of their work to the park superintendent and management team, we also anticipate having the intern present their project at a conference such as National Association of Black Geoscientists, which meets every September. Our TSU colleagues routinely have their students present at such conferences. The intern will have several mentors during this project. Dr. Rick Toomey (MACA Cave Resource Management Specialist) will be their primary Supervisor. Additional supervisors at Mammoth Cave will include Tim Pinion (Chief of Science and Resource Management), Rick Olson (MACA Ecologist), and Liz Thomas (MACA Volunteer Coordinator). Tom Byl (USGS and TSU) will also serve as a mentor for the students, both at the park and after they return to TSU). Dr. De'Etra Young and Bill Sutton (TSU) will also provide guidance, occasional sampling and provide community support for the students. TSU is approximately 90 miles away from Mammoth Cave, so occasional visits are part of the support plan. These visits will also help to foster additional interaction and research opportunities between MACA and TSU.
When the summer is complete, if we have an intern from TSU, they will return to TSU for the fall. They will have the opportunity to continue their interaction with MACA and this project through the partnerships
between MACA and TSU. As noted, several faculty members are involved in this project and will be doing some of the chemistry and molecular testing (qPCR of the cyanobacteria) in their labs. Students will be
encouraged to take "ownership” of part of the project and make it their senior capstone or Masters's thesis. Studies have shown that internship experiences have a significant influence on deciding a profession. It is our goal to inspire these interns to choose the National Park Service as their career occupation. We would anticipate a successful internship for a non-TSU student, but their post-internship follow-up might be more limited.
Learning Goals
  • Plan development
  • Water and algae sampling strategies & techniques
  • Processing water samples
  • Measuring basic water quality parameter
  • Navigation in the field
  • Basic caving techniques
  • Natural resource management and best management practices
  • What "Harmful Algal Blooms” are and why they are important.
Some college work in environmental science, biology, geology, agriculture or related fields Interest in water quality issues, basic GPS
Word Processing and Spreadsheets, basic use of scientific instruments such as temperature and dissolved oxygen meters
Additional qualifications:
  • Must be currently enrolled or recent graduate of an accredited HBCU institution
  • Must be between 16 and 30 years of age
  • Must be U.S. citizen, U.S. permanent resident or U.S. national
  • Must be able to pass a federal background check
 Work Environment Although some of the work on this internship will be in an office and lab setting, much of the work will occur in the field. The fieldwork will include both surface and cave settings. The office setting is within easy walking distance of the housing. It will be in the offices and lab of the
Science and Resource Management Division. An office will be shared among several interns. There is a basic water sample processing lab that will also be available. The surface setting will include work in ponds, springs, creeks, and rivers in the park. The park setting is mostly forested. Most sites will be within 0.25 miles from the nearest area to park. Many will involve hiking on regular hiking trails, but some sites will likely require off-trail travel through the woods. Although two species of venomous snakes do occur in the park, the primary wildlife threat is ticks. We do have abundant ticks but will provide the intern with insect and tick repellant as well as instructions for avoiding ticks. Some sites will involve going into the water in sites, but none will require anything beyond wading. The cave setting will include work along the tourist trails in the electrically lit sections of the cave. Off-trail work in the cave will be done with teams of people, rather than as individuals. The HBCUI intern will be required to drive to various locations in and around the park, at least on a weekly basis (2- 10 miles). They will have access to an appropriate park vehicle for these duties. The park entrance roads are two-lane highways that wind in and out of hills and valleys. The park is rich with wildlife, which at times may cause traffic situations, the HBCUI must be aware of their driving environment at all times to ensure their safety and that of the wildlife, other park staff, and visitors to the park. For some sampling the HBCUI may drive on dirt roads or trails that are closed to public driving. There are various types of vehicles available, and the choice is dependent on the task. We have bicycles and four-seater electric cars for quick trips to the park. There are also large work trucks capable of four wheel driving (rarely needed). There will be opportunities (outside of the primary job requirements) to participate in projects that go off of normal trails in the woods and caves. These will be optional and will depend on the interests of the intern.
Vehicle/License Requirement A personal vehicle is not required for this site. A valid state driver's license is required to operate a government vehicle while conducting official government business.
Compensation and Benefits
  • Compensation is at a rate of $10 per hour, 40 hours per week.
  • A housing assistance stipend is provided for non-local interns
  • Mandatory attendance in the all-expense-paid Career & Leadership Workshop
  • Make a difference in your local community and beyond
Application Instructions
Interested students should apply directly to this position via the SERVE job portal at
  • Use the link to apply to the selected position
  • First-time applicants must create a profile on JobDiva
  • Upload resume as a PDF file
    • The file name should include your first and last name or initials
    • Examples: FI. Lastname-resume.pdf, Firstname Lastname – resume.pdf, or Firstname L.pdf
For more information about HBCUI, visit
QUESTIONS? Contact us at

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