After my short stay at the Delaware Water Gap, I packed my bags and drove from Milford, Pennsylvania to Washington, DC. It was a decent drive and there wasn’t much traffic, but I was still thankful to have a GPS system to help me navigate the way. I was instantly aware of when I was approaching the city because traffic was thicker and there were fancier cars around me. When I entered the city, the traffic increased and I slowly rolled from light to light until finally making my way to my hotel. Once I got there and unloaded my bags, it took me an hour to drive 5 miles to the airport to drop off the rental car. I felt liberated when I could finally travel the city either by metro or on foot.
To my surprise, I was amazed by the number of people in the city and how they acted and dressed differently here. It was not because I had never experienced a big city before, because I have; but because it was the first time I had been somewhere so urban after spending time in highly remote areas this whole summer. The contrast between places I visited like Dry Tortugas, Kalaupapa, and Isle Royale to a big city like Washington, DC is stark and dramatic. My appreciation for isolation and untouched natural beauty has definitely increased over the past few months. However, I also realized that none of that isolated, natural beauty would be here if people in Washington, DC didn’t work for these fantastic natural and cultural wonders to be set aside, protected, and managed by the federal government for all to enjoy. After everything I had seen, it was hard to wrap my mind around the fact that I was actually here, at my last stop, to visit the national headquarters which is where all of the important decisions are made that affect National Parks.
My first day, I headed over to the National Park Service headquarters on “Eye” street to meet with Marine Resource Management Specialist, Cliff McCreedy. Then, Cliff and I took the subway over to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administrations Headquarters where I gave a speech about my summer adventures to several different program directors there. After that, we took a quick lunch break and then headed back to the NPS headquarters building. I was invited to share my experiences in a “Brown Bag Seminar” in the Office of International Affairs conference room. They are called “Brown Bag Seminars” because people bring their food to eat while they listen to speakers during their lunch hour. After my speech, I sat down with Cliff and he explained his role in the Washington Office to me and told me about some key issues that are affecting the marine resources in National Parks and what he is doing to help manage them. Among other tasks, he provides technical assistance for outreach and education program development for ocean parks as well as parks in the Great Lakes. Also, he is the Natural Resource Representative on the NPS National Dive Control Board (NDCB.) The NDCB is the administrative council of regional dive officers and other representatives who make sure that the diving done within the park service is complying with safety standards and regulations as well as ensuring that park divers receive the proper training to become or remain certified park divers.
The following day I got to listen in on a conference call Cliff was having regarding ocean resources. Then, I walked past the White House on my way to the National Park Service Director’s Office to give my speech one last time as well as meet with key people who influence NPS policies. After that, I went back to the headquarters on Eye Street and met with Public Risk Management Specialist, Sara Newman. She told me about the measures they are taking to keep employees and visitors safe in National Parks, which are inherently dangerous because they are in the wilderness and can be remote. Then, Cliff and I met with Wendy Davis, Servicewide Education Program Coordinator, in a conference call with Lynn Murdock, Interpretive Specialist Liaison. We discussed education in national parks and how to be more effective by connecting the public to the natural resources available to them. They are trying to go in a new direction by making more information available on the internet and also using films or live interactive video programs such as “Channel Islands Live” to inform people about their National Parks.
Ending my internship in Washington, DC was very beneficial to my understanding of the system in which all of the National Parks I visited operate under. Because of those who navigate the legal and political field of resource management and funding here in Washington, all of the world can enjoy the pristine natural beauty found in North America in areas that have been designated as National Parks. This internship as a whole has been so incredibly valuable to me and I feel tremendously fortunate to have experienced America’s underwater National Parks from the inside, by working and diving with the key experts in the fields of biological and cultural resources, maintenance, and law enforcement. Having seen all that I have, I feel proud to be an American and appreciate what our country has done to preserve our wild lands, lakes, rivers, and oceans to keep them pristine for future generations.
Thank you to Cliff McCreedy, Jeff Olson, Sara Newman, Wendy Davis, Lynn Murdock, Jonathan Jarvis, and everyone who came to listen to my speeches about my internship!
Also, I would like to thank the Our World Underwater Scholarship Society and the National Park Service’s Submerged Resources Center for making this amazing opportunity possible for me. This internship has surpassed even my highest hopes and expectations, and I feel so lucky to have been given the chance, funding, and support to make it all happen. You have changed my life by widening my perception of the United States, the National Park Service, and professional scuba diving. Thank You!