My Internship Experience
By Amanda M.
In the conversations I have with community members, I can tell that smoke and wildfires are constantly on everyone’s mind. In the Methow Valley in central Washington, where I am interning, there have been a significant number of wildfires during the last few years. The people here have seen fires pass through right next to their homes. Some of their homes are still standing today and others have not been so lucky. I’m working hand in hand with the Methow Valley Clean Air Project, a nonprofit whose goal is to educate citizens about air quality issues and improve the air quality with attainable goals. I’m excited by my internship because it is a great opportunity for me to work on a project that will have a big impact on people in this community.
The main project I’m working on is placing a network of low-cost air sensors across the Methow Valley. With grant money and sponsorship from community members, we have twenty PurpleAir monitors that I am placing at homes, businesses, and schools. These monitors are a great supplement to the two federal air monitors in the area because they report air quality data in real time. Through some research I’ve done I discovered that the PurpleAir monitors may report a higher concentration of PM2.5 than is actually present in the air. I’m collaborating with other people who have more experience with data validation to correct this.
Many of the skills that I am using during my internship are ones I have built through group projects in many of my environmental health classes. When I think about it now, working at an organization is just like working on a group project in class but on a larger scale. I’m collaborating with many different individuals and organizations to get key stakeholders of the community involved with the project. This requires good communication skills and an organized approach on my end. I highly recommend diving into group projects whole-heartedly because they will give you good experience for working on your internship and someday when you have a real job (I hope!).