My name is Isabel Ahlstrom, and I am an AmeriCorps member who joined the American Conservation Experience Mountain-West conservation corps for a 6-month term in 2018 and am now serving a year-long term with the ACE EPIC internship program. I am working as a Hydrological Technician for the National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring Division; Appalachian Highlands Network and spend my days collecting data for the long-term stream and river monitoring programs at the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Obed Wild and Scenic River and Blue Ridge Parkway.
For the past 6 months I have been working for the National Parks Service Appalachian Highlands (APHN) Inventory and Monitoring Network as a hydrological technician. I spend my days taking water samples, monitoring environmental changes and exploring streams and creeks at the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Obed Wild and Scenic River and Blue Ridge Parkway. While working for the long-term monitoring division of the National Park Service, I have learned more about what it takes to contribute to a rigorous scientific program through federal service. As a part of a small team of scientists, I monitor 5 continuous water quality monitoring sites monthly and 42 quarterly-sampled discrete water quality sites on 3 National Park lands. I have been given the opportunity to work independently, leading a team of other hydrological techs in the field while we service sites, collect measurements and perform equipment calibrations and tests in the laboratory. Using my background in hydrology and geochemistry, I have been able to collaborate with other scientists to fine-tune our scientific methods and laboratory procedures as our program goes through changes, contributing to the revisionary period of the APHN’s scientific protocols. I have also been given the opportunity to cross train with other hydrologists, botanists, and wildlife biologists, learning skills outside of my field of knowledge.
While I have learned a ton since joining the Appalachian Highlands Network, I have also enjoyed the experience immensely. After graduating college in January of 2021, this ACE EPIC internship has been the ideal place for me to learn, grow and start my career. I have found wonderful colleagues and friends and spend my off-time hiking, rock climbing and exploring the Appalachian Mountains. ACE Conservation Corps and EPIC internship programs have genuinely altered the course of my life and I am grateful to have found multiple opportunities with this organization.