By Carey Sullivan for The Island Eye News
Close your eyes. You are 21-23 years old (for the first time), and you are curious young person who loves nature, learning, teaching, and exploring. Maybe you want to make this a career, maybe you want to explore your passion before “real life” happens. Whatever the motivation, you find yourself one of the lucky few who get to spend their summer interning on Dewees Island as a part of our Internship Program. Open your eyes. Well, your time may have passed, but as the summer starts in earnest on Dewees, so do five lucky interns who will spend their summer living the dream.
Dewees has welcomed interns for many years. The program fits seamlessly into the Dewees Island ethos of learning about our natural surroundings, discovering how we can be the best stewards of our island home, and teaching others what we have learned. The Internship Program is a clear win-win. Dewees gets the boundless energy and enthusiasm of bright young people, many of whom have been studying to have a natureoriented career. In exchange, we provide housing on Dewees and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to work with our community and naturalist and to see first hand about the incredible balance that nature has created on a South Carolina barrier island.
Our interns are busy. The turtle/ environmental interns share their time here on Dewees with Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. They learn a lot about loggerhead turtles, cataloguing sometimes more than 50 nests a day. When they are on Dewees, they assist in the planning and implementing of our Summer Nature Program with our naturalist, Lori SheridanWilson. Additionally, they work with Lori on any ongoing research/projects on Dewees, like counting owls, alligators and bird species or removing invasive Chinese Tallow.
Our Nature Program is designed toward families with children, helping them to learn more about the wildlife that surrounds them on Dewees as well as how to interact with nature in a way that safe and respectful. The Interns learn how to plan activities, implement them in a group setting, and then evaluate what worked and what didn’t. This is exactly the type of experience that any future employer is going to want to see in an applicant.
We also have hospitality interns on the island whose primary focus is helping first time guests and renters get oriented to Dewees. They help newcomers understand how we do things differently on the island (and why) and help make the transition from off-island to on-island as smooth as possible. The interns meet guests and renters as the arrive, explain the logistics of the ferry, golf carts, water, trash, and help orient them to the island’s amenities. The interns also serve as a helpful liaison between the newbies and Mother Nature, guiding them on how to stay on her good side, and, once again, how to enjoy her display safely and respectfully.
This year we have added a coyote intern. Their job will be to study our relatively new inhabitants, wild coyotes. While these interesting animals have been living on IOP and Sullivan’s Island for many years, they only came over to Dewees in 2017. We have been studying them as a community, but it will be fascinating to have a full-time set of eyes and ears on our new neighbors, to see how they are adapting to their home and what impact they are having on the rest of the flora and fauna.
I’ll be honest, none of this would have appealed to my 22-year-old self. Spiders? Alligators? No, thank you! But now, when I close my eyes, I wish I could shake that young girl and remind her that life is too short to be afraid of what you don’t know, and that nature therapy is cheaper, and more effective, that just about any other kind!
Carey Sullivan has been a part of the Dewees community since 2005. She lives in Alexandria, VA with her husband and daughter and her son is a freshman at College of Charleston. Her main goal in life is to live full time on Dewees.