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Sealaska Heritage Institute Internship

Culture and STEAM: A summer with ACRC through the Sealaska Heritage Institute

My name is Olivia Mills, and I am a Thunder Mountain High School senior interested in pursuing a career in biological sciences. I got the opportunity to work at the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center through a STEAM internship program geared towards Alaska native youth by the Sealaska Heritage Institute. The main idea or theme of the internship program was to show the students and help them better understand how Alaska native culture is woven into STEAM fields. 

hands holding clams

Throughout my four-week internship I got to help with a variety of different projects ranging from microbial analysis of glacial pools to helping collect clams for shellfish toxins. The main connection between all of the projects that I was able to participate in boiled down to: 

‘How Does the Environment Impact Subsistence Harvests,’ with a more specific interest on salmon and clams. Each day was a new and fun experience. There was never a dull moment at ACRC and I enjoyed every second.

I saw how the knowledge that had been shared with me through my culture and family had all somehow been inadvertently tied into science, whether we had truly understood it or not. Every new little piece of information began to weave itself into a blanket of complexities and understanding. The amount of particulates in the water, the temperature, the different fish populations at each site we would visit. Everything had a reason and even the smallest detail made all the difference.

This internship gave me a different perspective on the field of science and has only strengthened my intentions of joining the field after high school. The experience and connections this internship has given me, have truly shaped my love of work in the field. I look forward to the possibility of new and exciting experiences in the science field. I would also like to thank Jason Fellman, Emily Whitney, Eran Hood, John Harley, Lindsey Call and all the ACRC staff that I had the honor of working with.

 people in Alaska native regalia outdoors