Adventurous Internship in Guam

charlieCharlie Cheul – Woo Kwak, an Environmental Biology student at Hood College, has returned from a summer internship in Guam, spent surveying the Guam National Wildlife Refuge. This competitive internship is known as USFWS-DFP US Fish and Wildlife Service – Directorate Fellowship Program (USFWS-DEP), and Charlie first heard about it from Graduate School Dean Dr. April Boulton. He went through the long process of applying for a federal position, succeeded and headed off to Guam.

Charlie’s internship consisted largely of surveying the closed side of the Guam National Wildlife Refuge, which had never been comprehensively explored and surveyed. What made it even more adventurous is the fact that there was no data on what could be out there. At times, Charlie was the first person who ever set foot at that part of the Refuge. He successfully recorded over 170 survey plots on soil, dominant species, canopy cover, ungulate damage and target plant species. Charlie also put over 1000 trees on a final map. His most memorable experience was when he first created a map using ArcMap with his field data. About a month and a half into the project, he put about one quarter of the data points into the mapping software, creating a visual representation of everything that was in the thick of the jungle. “This was the first time I had ever taken on a professional project from start to finish – from field data to map – from ground-truthing to presentation.

Fun moments were not scarce. Charlie found an ancient pictograph of the indigenous Chamorro people drawn on a cave wall.  As no one had seen that relic before Charlie, he was excited to share that news to everyone, including the archaeologists on the island!  “As a ‘bonus,’ I walked over an unexploded grenade from WWII.  It didn’t explode when I stepped over it!! When asked to provide advice to our current students, Charlie emphasized the importance of persistence. “I would advise that they apply to as many internship or practicum as possible.  I applied to total of 16 positions and received 15 rejection letters prior to getting the one acceptance!”