Soaking It All In

My first day interning at Inland Seas feels like yesterday, yet here I am reflecting on the seven weeks I have spent here. When I applied to work with Inland Seas, I had hopes and intentions to increase my own knowledge about the Great Lakes. Oh man, I have learned a lot and for that I am so grateful. 

I was born in Michigan, and I was raised on the Great Lakes. My family has taken extended sailing trips with me since before I could even walk. My mother and I have enjoyed early summer swims in Lake Michigan for as long as I can remember (normally racing our neighbors to be the first ones in the water that year). And two summers ago I led a group of campers along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in which one of our best moments was dancing and swimming in Lake Superior. Memories like these bring me so much joy, and I am met with a profound peace each time I am near these wonderful waters. 

Despite being born and raised on the Great Lakes, I began my internship at Inland Seas Education with very little knowledge of the ecology and the scientific technology used in the field to assess the lake health. One of my goals for my internship here was to gain a better understanding about what is happening below the surface of the Great Lakes. I learned that the Great Lakes are much more than a refreshing treat on a hot day… The Benthos exists! And the ecosystem is changing at the hands of invasive species brought over in ballast water of ships! A watershed is a place where water collects! Cloudy water full of algae and other snacks is a sign of good lake health! One of my favorite things I learned and later taught students about on the ship was how midge larvae spend 1-2 years (most of their life) on the bottom of the lake before coming to the surface as a fly. People know so little about the benthos, yet it is the foundation for the food web in our bays. The benthos station, along with all the other stations aboard the Schoolship, provide students with an amazing experience along with the power of knowledge. I have absorbed so much important information over the course of this internship, and I am honored to have been an on-board educator for these students and be given the chance to spark within them a passion and curiosity for these natural marvels. 

In addition to learning freshwater environmental science, I also learned what a wonderful team ISEA has working passionately towards a greater Great Lakes future. Upon my arrival to the organization, I was met with friendly faces and understanding hearts. I was impressed by the level of fun freshwater facts that the team had to share over lunch in the office. From day one I could see that these people are doing what they love and have a real zeal for Great Lakes preservation. As my time here with Inland Seas continued on, I found myself becoming more confident in my knowledge and abilities. I then found that my fellow interns and coworkers were becoming friends that I could easily communicate with or come to for help if I needed it. As my time as an ISEA intern winds down I am met with both sadness and joy, for I will no longer spend everyday (rain or shine!) with these wonderful people whom I got to experience such wonderful things with. Luckily, in future seasons I can return and join the astonishing team of volunteers that makes ISEA’s mission possible. 

Overall, my experience here at Inland Seas has empowered me to protect one of the most precious parts of my life and an important resource for all by giving me the knowledge and ability to inspire a Great Lakes passion in others.

Until next time,
Sophie Nickel

This blog post was written by ISEA Intern Sophie Nickel based on her experiences as an intern with ISEA. If you would like to write a blog post about your time and experiences with ISEA please contact Harrison Fischer at

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