Summer Internship Program Fosters Homegrown Environmental Stewards in the Northern Mariana Islands

The Takeaway: The internship provides opportunities for local students to grow into environmental careers on the islands.

Dianne posing in knee-high water in snorkeling gear.
Dianne during her internship at the CNMI Division of Coastal Resources Management.

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Coral Reef Initiative pairs local post-secondary students with mentors from natural resource agencies to complete hands-on conservation projects. Since 2002, this internship program has introduced students to coral reef conservation and environmental management concepts while building capacity within the territory.

NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program has supported the internship program from the start, providing resources to host 10 interns every summer. In 2019, five additional intern slots were created thanks to funding from NOAA’s Coastal Zone Management Program. The program has supported over 200 summer interns since its inception.

The additional funding support also enabled the program to expand its focus from coral reef management to additional areas of coastal management, including spatial planning and environmental compliance.

Dianne pointing to a map on a computer screen as a coworker looks on.
Dianne in her current position at the CNMI Division of Coastal Resources Management.

Former intern Dianne Pablo’s project focused on using ArcGIS to generate an economic valuation of the marine sports industry in the capital of Saipan. After completing her associate of science degree in natural resource management from the Northern Marianas College and her bachelor of science in natural resources and environment from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Dianne received her master of science degree in geographic information science from the University of Utah before returning to Saipan. She now holds a full-time position as the local coastal program’s geographic information systems specialist.

Over the program’s history, many participants, like Dianne, have returned to start careers with CNMI natural resource agencies and organizations, carrying their knowledge forward to benefit their communities. In the Division of Coastal Resources Management alone, 25 percent of current staff are former interns.

To learn more about the internship program, read this story from NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program or visit the program website.

Partners: CNMI Division of Coastal Resources Management, NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, NOAA Coastal Zone Management Program