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Intern Spotlight Series: Sydney Lyn Lewis

Sydney Lyn Lewis is an intern in the Deep-Sea Coral Research and Technology Program for the Office of Habitat Conservation. In this intern spotlight, she shares her experience as a summer intern, working in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This is the final installment of a seven-part series.

Can you share a little bit about yourself and why you chose the U.S. Department of Commerce for your internship?

I am a rising senior, an undergraduate student studying marine science at the University of Hawai`i at Hilo. I am originally from Colorado Springs; CO and I chose to go to UH Hilo for my degree because they offer ample field experience for undergraduate students. Over the past three years, I have had the opportunity to participate in coral reef surveys, humpback whale counts, sea turtle and monk seal rehabilitation, boat operations, and more! My favorite free time activities include night snorkeling, SCUBA diving, hiking, painting, playing the piano, and hanging out with my dogs.

I am very excited to share that this summer I had the opportunity to further my education of the ocean via an internship with the U.S Department of Commerce. Specifically, I interned with NOAA’s Deep-Sea Coral Research and Technology Program and I chose this internship because it offers a comprehensive experience that actualizes scientific research with policy. Moreover, not only have I learned about the ecology of deep-sea corals and sponges but also how the United States is conserving these habitats as a part of fisheries management.

What have you been working on during your internship?

I have been developing an inventory of the projects funded by the Deep-Sea Coral Research and Technology Program (DSCRTP) since it became operational in 2009. This inventory will be used to assess the effectiveness of the program’s funding efforts and will be used to inform the delegation of future funds. In addition to this inventory, I have been developing a complementary interactive dashboard that can be used to explore the different patterns and trends of funding in relation to the expected outcomes of a project.

What have you learned during this internship that you can apply in the future?

One of the most valuable things that I learned during this internship is how to be comfortable with asking questions and reaching out for collaboration. I came into this experience with a strong data science background, but with very little knowledge of the deep-sea coral program. This situation felt complicated to me because my task was to create a spreadsheet, capable of capturing all of the important qualities and accomplishments of the projects funded by this program. And so, I was challenged to speak plainly about where I was confused and when I needed someone else's expertise to help me execute the task at hand. In addition to working more collaboratively, I became more comfortable with the slow, meticulous nature of data science work. I have become more aware of the pacing and need for vigilance in moving a valuable, but repetitive project, like this forward.