By ADELEYAH MOJICA
Coral Reef Initiative Intern
In all my returns home, after being away for months at a time, I am still amazed at how truly beautiful our island is. To this day I still find myself mesmerized by the colors of the sunset, the different shades of blue in the ocean, and the sheer green that still exists here. That being said, it is no secret that the island's beauty is in danger of irreversible damage-many of our animals are already endangered or extinct, the colors of our corals have significantly paled, and the amount and sizes of our fish have notably decreased.
I took on this internship in hopes of having both a better understanding of what goes on behind the scenes in efforts towards solving the environmental issues as well as hopes of being a part of the improvement process.
I am currently pursuing a degree in Public Relations at Pepperdine University in southern California. Unfortunately, my school does not have a track for environmental studies, but I am hoping to someday be able get my foot in the door of an environmental agency through its PR side. In the meantime, I want to get as much experience with environmental work as I can.
This summer I was able to intern at our very own Division of Environmental Quality under the guidance of my mentor, Kaity Mattos, the watershed coordinator. I was able to see the work she does on a day-to-day basis as well as explore other fields at DEQ such as marine monitoring and geographic information system (GIS) mapping.
My main project for the internship was to organize the planning for the installation of a second public rain garden, the first presently located out in front of the CNMI Museum.
For those of you who have not heard of a rain garden, it is a small-scale Stormwater Best Management practice. It is basically a man-made garden designed to capture stormwater runoff in order to decrease the amount of water in the storm drain system and eventually the amount of contaminated water that is emptying into our oceans and harming our marine ecosystems.
All of the water that you see falling off roofs and flowing into the storm drain; that usually goes right into the ocean as it is, filled with sediments and chemicals that it may have picked up on its way down to the drain. This has direct negative effects on our ocean and its creatures and eventually on us as well. The public rain garden will stand as an educational tool so that others will hopefully implement this practice at their businesses and homes.
In order to carry out this project, a number of steps had to be taken. My mentor and I spoke with different agencies around the island. Research had to be done on the last rain garden as well as on what type of plants will be most suitable for our next rain garden. We had to pick a site and test its soils to be sure that it was an ideal location and we had to coordinate with those in charge of the lands. We have decided to go with the Northern Marianas College and luckily for us, they have been extremely cooperative.
A good part of the planning has already been complete but there is still work to do. I will be returning to school this week and unfortunately will not be able to see the rain garden's installation but I know that the project is in good hands thanks to folks at DEQ, MINA, and at the Northern Marianas College. Overall, the internship was a wonderful experience and I can honestly say that I loved my job and I would do it all over again.
I really enjoyed how the internship was not just an office job; we were able to go out into the ocean, into the boonies, and to places around the island that I had never seen before. I also enjoyed how the internship program offers other experiences outside of the office such as our weekly discussions, the maintenance of the re-vegetation project up at LaoLao, and the lagoon surveys in which we go out into the lagoon and record what type of species are currently living in that area.
I highly recommend this program. It is an awesome way to spend your summer and a great way to be a part of bettering the environmental conditions of our island.