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Biology Students Gain Valuable Experience During Summer Internships

Kellyn Fitzgerald — Class of '14

This summer I had the privilege of being selected to participate in Santee Cooper’s Environmental Intern Program. Santee Cooper is South Carolina’s largest power producer and is committed to providing reliable, affordable energy to customers while improving the quality of life for South Carolinians. During my internship I gained invaluable perspective on many environmental issues, made life-long friends and observed firsthand how a large utility company is able to meet customer needs while also being a good steward of the environment.

photo of Kellyn Fitzgerald

Selection Process

Twelve rising juniors and seniors from South Carolina are selected by South Carolina legislators—including South Carolina’s U.S. senators and congressmen—and by the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina to participate in this program each summer.

Experience

During the summer, interns are given the opportunity to rotate through three of nine departments—Analytical and Biological Services, Air Quality, Right of Way Management, Environmental Services, Investment Recovery, Vector Management, Old Santee Canal Park, Property Management, and Renewable Energy.

During my first rotation I worked in both the field and lab with Analytical and Biological Services. While in the field I assisted in water quality testing on Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion by determining pH, turbidity, conductivity and chlorophyll content. I was also able to assist in the herbicide management of invasive aquatic plants such as water hyacinth, hydrilla and crested floating heart. In the lab I was able to use a sulfur analyzer, calorimeter and thermogravimetric analyzer to determine the quality of coal and oil used at the generating stations; I also tested ground water for metals using an ICP mass spectrometer and tested the interfacial tension on mineral oil used in transformers.

photo of Kellyn Fitzgerald

Most of my Right of Way Management rotation was spent outside where I was able to use things learned in my botany and ecology courses to identify saplings that could potentially cause damage to transmission lines within a few years. I was able to meet and work with the many individuals who work “behind the scenes” to ensure that electricity reaches customers reliably.

My last rotation was with Vector Management where I assisted in weekly testing for West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis and helped track the population of mosquitoes throughout the Lowcountry so that adulticide could be sprayed in areas severely affected by mosquitoes. These three rotations gave me perspective on many of the environmental issues that large companies face and allowed me to see how Santee Cooper is addressing them with both customer and environment in mind.

This summer provided me with a clearer direction for my graduate school plans, and I was able to form friendships with people I will possibly be working with in the future. It was an honor to work for a company that is committed to responsibly using and protecting South Carolina’s natural resources. My summer in the Santee Cooper Environmental Intern Program is one I will never forget!

Brandon Formanack — Class of '15

This summer the Lord provided me the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the field. I have always been interested in marine life, so this summer I completed a marine biology internship at Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City Beach, Florida. The internship provided me with great experience, and it confirmed my pursuit in this career field.

photo of Brandon Formanack

Experience

I worked with Bottlenose dolphins, Rough-toothed dolphins, California sea lions, African black-footed penguins and stranded sea turtles on a daily basis. Daily duties included water testing and water quality control, diet preparation, interacting with guests, assisting in animal husbandry and training, participating in shows and much more. I learned so much about animal behavior through this experience. I was able to gain much hands-on experience, which was very beneficial and rewarding.

One of my favorite things I was able to do was guest interaction programs. During the last month of my internship, one of my responsibilities was to perform a poolside dolphin interaction program with up to six guests at a time. During the program it was my responsibility to maintain control of the dolphin while educating the guests and allowing guests to interact with the dolphin. It was a great achievement for me, and I am grateful for the opportunity I had to use the gifts and knowledge God has given me.

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