Available Internships

The following CONSERVE institutions have positions available for Summer 2018:

New Mexico State University (Las Cruces, NM)
Project Focus: Educational Media Development

University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ)
Project Focus: Water Quality Analysis

University of Arizona (Maricopa, AZ)
Project Focus: Water Quality Analysis & Outreach

University of Delaware (Newark, DE)
Project Focus: Consumer Behavior & Economics

University of Maryland (College Park, MD)
Project Focus: Water Quality Analysis

University of Maryland (College Park, MD)
Project Focus: Water Quality Analysis & Outreach

University of Maryland (College Park, MD)
Project Focus: Spatial Analysis & Mapping

USDA Agricultural Research Service (Beltsville, MD)
Project Focus: Water Quality Analysis & Product Testing


New Mexico State University

Las Cruces, NM // Supervisor: Jeanne Gleason

Position Description: The intern will be involved with communications, product testing and placement and data analytics. As part of an integrated team of professionals, the intern will be included in the process of promoting, user-testing and doing quality assurance on several multimedia educational outreach products, including YouTube videos and an interactive web module. Learning about social media marketing of educational outreach products could also be part of this internship, if desired. The intern would be actively supervised and supported by editorial and development staff. Skills needed: writing, meticulous data organization, and teamwork. Some scientific or science communications background would be helpful.

About the Lab: Work environment is a studio of educational media developers working on a variety of projects in agricultural, consumer, and environmental sciences education. The team includes research professors, students, and professional artists, designers, programmers, videographers, and writers.

University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ // Supervisor: Sadhana Ravishankar

Position Description: The intern will assist in processing water samples for analysis. Some of the specific tasks will include (but are not limited to) the following: preparing media and reagents; collecting water samples; filtering and preparing samples; processing samples, including enrichment, serial dilutions and plating for enumeration and bacterial isolation; Most Probable Number technique; bacterial confirmation using various biochemical, immunological and molecular methods; DNA extraction, PCR and q-PCR; sterilization of contaminated samples by autoclaving and clean up; literature review; data analysis; and preparation of posters, Powerpoint slides and presentation in lab meetings. The intern will also assist the senior research personnel secondary goals ozone treatment of water samples and the impact of treatment on microbial safety and quality of water) and also the education/outreach activities related to the project.

About the Lab: The focus of research in Dr. Ravishankar's lab is to understand the survival of foodborne pathogenic bacteria in the production and processing environments, and to develop natural control measures for bacteria thriving in foods. Some of the specific research areas include: understanding the attachment and biofilm formation by foodborne pathogenic bacteria on food contact surfaces and their prevention;   isolating and identifying foodborne pathogens and indicator bacteria from various environmental matrices such as irrigation water, soil, and air in the production environments; and controlling pathogenic bacteria in various foods using natural plant-based antimicrobials. The lab team currently includes a lab manager, three graduate students and five undergraduate students who work on various aspects of the research mentioned above. The lab team also conducts education/outreach activities for local school students as well as the community by participating in a number of local events around Arizona.  

University of Arizona

Maricopa Agricultural Center, Maricopa, AZ // Supervisor: Channah Rock

Position Description: The intern will work with an outgoing and collaborative group of staff, scientists, and students to collect water samples, analyze samples for microbiological parameters, interpret data, and communicate scientific findings with stakeholder across the state of AZ. The intern will also have the opportunity to learn advanced microbiological techniques and learn how to translate complex scientific information to a variety of stakeholder audiences including growers, packers, shippers, irrigation districts, and other scientists. The intern will also be tasked to develop a fact sheet related to recycled water use in agriculture in the Southwest.

About the Lab: The Maricopa Agricultural Center (MAC) is a 2,100-acre research farm within The College of Agriculture & Life Sciences at The University of Arizona. This research farm is located in the city of Maricopa, AZ about 90 miles north of The University of Arizona main campus in Tucson, AZ. Here at the farm there are about a dozen faculty members who conduct research in Agriculture related sciences like Urban and Rural Entomology, Integrated Pest Management, Ag Systems and Bio Engineering, Soil Science, Crop Science and Water Quality. The Water Quality Program housed at MAC has been conducting outreach and research for just over eight years and has reached more than 26,000 individuals. Outreach efforts for the Water Quality Program focus in teaching water quality principles and practices to watershed stewards, industry stakeholders and the general public. Research topics include food safety within irrigation water quality, surface water quality in rivers, lakes and streams, wastewater industry methods and standards and water reuse analysis and regulation. The Water Quality Program Lab is a microbiology-based laboratory that performs field and lab water sample collection and analysis using current high quality microbiological techniques in both cultural and molecular science.  

University of Delaware

Newark, DE // Supervisor: Kent Messer

Position Description: Human behaviors have policy implications. In society, if we want to bring about change, we have to understand human behavior first. As experimental economists we use field and laboratory experimental techniques to gauge individual behavior. This could be as simple as asking people to make yes or no decisions concerning certain tasks. For example, “Will you eat this strawberry that has been irrigated with recycled water for $5? – Yes or No?” As experimental economists, we work to ensure that all purchase decisions have real financial outcomes for real products – just like they would be in an actual grocery store. This means that participants receive money to make these decisions and it also means that the decision itself is real – if we are asking if a participant is willing to eat a strawberry that has been irrigated with recycled water for $5, then we will have an actual strawberry that has been irrigated with recycled water that the participant can buy. The Center for Experimental & Applied Economics is looking for a CONSERVE intern who is motivated and friendly and who has an interest in studying water and food issues from an economics and behavioral science perspective. As part of this internship, the candidate will work on Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval and certification, identifying produce grown with various irrigation methods, development of experiment design and decision platform, administering studies, analyzing and presenting data, and developing learning materials based on research.

About the Lab: The Center for Experimental & Applied Economics consists of a diverse team of about 30 people (undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs and professors) working on a variety of research topics centered on human behavior and agrienvironmental issues. Understanding how people respond to questions and tasks given various scenarios and information sets is critical when trying to comprehend and predict how people behave in the real world. Our research helps us understand how human behavior can be influenced and altered to make better environmental and, consequently, economic decisions.

University of Maryland

College Park, MD // Supervisor: Shirley Micallef

Position Description: As part of CONSERVE, the Micallef Lab team has been isolating and archiving a large collection of Escherichia coli and Enterococcus spp. isolates recovered from a variety of surface and recycled water sources.  The collection consists of hundreds of bacterial isolates whose characterization can reveal a wealth of information regarding the microbial safety of these water sources for agricultural use. This research position will focus on a project that is characterizing the antibiotic susceptibility profiles of these isolates, and determine how such traits may influence bacterial survival in the agricultural environment, such as in soil, water and associated with crops.  The successful intern will be trained in Biosafety laboratory 2 protocols, and learn standard microbiology and molecular biology methods, as well as methods used in microbial food safety. The student will work closely with a graduate student, and will be responsible for assisting in screening isolates for antibiotic resistance traits, and performing assays to determine the effect of these traits on bacterial survival in various media.  The intern will also be expected to keep detailed records of tasks performed, collect, record and manage data, and assist in data analysis.  The intern will present the work in a final presentation. 

About the Lab: The Produce Microbial Safety and Ecology Lab in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture in College Park is supervised by Dr. Shirley Micallef.  The focus of the lab is to study the ecology of enteric bacteria in the agricultural environment of fresh produce crops, with emphasis on enteric bacterial reservoirs, and impacts of cropping practices on fate and transmission of bacteria onto crops.  The lab also investigates factors that cause shifts in plant-associated microbiomes as they pertain to microbial safety of crops. Using genetic and molecular methods, as well as standard microbiological methods, we also study human pathogen-plant interactions, to understand the factors that contribute to crop contamination with foodborne pathogens. The lab consists of Dr. Micallef, a faculty assistant, post-docs, graduate and undergraduate students who are all involved in various field and laboratory projects.  We use resources within the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR), including Research and Education Centers around the state, the Greenhouse Complex on campus, and plant growth chambers housed in the Plant Sciences Building, to perform our work. The intern who will join this research team will have the opportunity to be involved in both field and laboratory experiments.

University of Maryland

College Park, MD // Supervisors: Amy Sapkota and Rosenberg Rachel Goldstein

Positions Description: The position will be split between Dr. Sapkota's lab and the education and outreach efforts led by Dr. Rosenberg Goldstein and Mr. Paul Goeringer. Lab duties will include supporting bimonthly water sample collections from Maryland ponds, rivers, and reclaimed wastewater facilities; calibrating and using multi-parameter meters that measure water parameters such as nitrates, chlorides, pH, and dissolved oxygen; filtering water samples and extracting DNA (which will be used to profile the microbial communities present in the different water sources over time using 16S sequencing and shotgun metagenomics); and entering data (water parameters, DNA concentrations, etc). Extension and Education duties will include updating and editing outreach materials; conducting literature reviews for Extension and peer-reviewed publications, preparing materials for Extension meetings; coordinating logistics for Extension meetings; supporting efforts to get programming onto agendas for regional conferences; and acting as proxy for Extension team on conference calls with other CONSERVE project teams. The intern will spend 60% time supporting the lab team, and 40% time supporting the Extension team. This shared position will allow the intern the opportunity to learn advanced microbiological techniques and develop skills in translating complex scientific information to a variety of stakeholder audiences, including growers, Extension Educators, and students.

About the Lab: The Extension team has four team members who have a range of experience in Extension, environmental and climate change communication, and agricultural law. We have a collaborative and friendly working environment. Most of the work for the Extension team will be performed in an office at a computer, but there might be some on-farm meetings. Dr. Sapkota has an environmental microbiology lab in the School of Public Health. The work with the lab team would include sampling trips on farms and publicly accessible surface water sites, as well as water processing in the lab.

University of Maryland

College Park, MD // Supervisor: Masoud Negahban-Azar

Position Description: The main focus of this project is to evaluate the suitability of using recycled water sources for irrigation through a case study in an agriculture-intensive watershed. We are looking for an interested undergraduate who is doing his/her junior or senior year in any of these majors: environmental science and technology, GIS, environmental engineering, geography, geology, natural resource management, or any related fields. The student should have basic knowledge of ArcGIS; excellent working experience with Excel; and skills in formatting reports, clear and concise writing and editing, and production of informational graphics. The intern will help with gathering information related to water resources, agricultural activity, climate data, and water use data, and producing reports and informational graphics based on the data. The intern will contribute to the development of agricultural water footprint analysis and developing large-scale water resource management models. 

About the Lab: In our lab, we use remote sensing data and relevant field data such as precipitation, river proximity, soil type, land cover, elevation and topography/slope to assess the feasibility of the using non-traditional water sources for agricultural irrigation. Students in our lab will learn how to gather large databases (e.g. hydrological data), and conduct spatial analysis. In addition, students in our group are working on developing different models and simulations for water resource management. Undergraduate researchers in our group will obtain hands-on experience in large scale modeling techniques and data analysis based on real-world case studies. They will also extensively practice data representation and research presentation in various methods. 

USDA Agricultural Research Service

Beltsville, MD // Supervisor: Manan Sharma

Position Description: The intern will be relied upon to help sampling teams in the field collect appropriate surface and reclaimed water samples. The incumbent will also be asked to perform quantitative and qualitative microbial analysis for bacterial pathogens in irrigation and reclaimed water samples. The intern will be responsible for assisting microbial detection and confirmation of enteric pathogens recovered from water samples, and confirming culture recovery results with PCR assays. The intern will also be responsible for constructing and setting up ZVI filters in the laboratory and on the farm. This will include different filter designs with different combinations of sand and iron appropriate for different water types that are being analyzed. Overall, this position will provide exposure to environmental, food, and molecular biology techniques to the intern.

About the Lab: Our laboratory investigates a broad array of topics and issues related to the persistence and population dynamics of enteric bacterial pathogens in pre-harvest environments, including irrigation water and biological soil amendments. Our laboratory uses a variety of environmental and food microbiology methods to detect enteric pathogens like Salmonella spp. and Listeria monocytogenes in surface and reclaimed wastewaters.  We use traditional and real time PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) methods to determine and confirm the presence of these pathogens in surface waters.  We are also examining the diversity of Salmonella serotypes in these different water types. We will also be examining the phylogenetic relationships between the various E. coli pathotypes in these waters.   Our work also looks at next-generation water filtration technologies, like zero-valent iron filtration (ZVI), that has been shown to reduce bacterial contamination in contaminated surface waters. Our goal is to design and evaluate a filter that can be easily implementable for small farms that may need a simple, cost-effective and efficient filtration system to comply with irrigation water standards from various regulatory and commodity group associations.