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My internship at Montgomery Botanical Center

My internship at Montgomery Botanical Center

August 16, 2021 at 12:00pm

Name: Christina Chavez

Hometown: Miami, FL

Major: Environmental Science – Natural Resource Science

Where did you intern? What did you do there? I completed my internship at Montgomery Botanical Center where I was afforded the opportunity to study different populations of Sabal palmetto by comparing various morphological and anatomical characteristics.

What projects did you work on? My main project focused on taking leaf, fruit and seed measurements of Sabal palmetto, and I learned how to create herbarium specimens. The project generated enough interest that I was later invited to speak about my research to the South Florida Palm Society. During my internship, I also had the opportunity to accompany Ayress Grinage, a Cornell graduate student, on an Everglades expedition and helped collect DNA specimens for her project on the Sabal genus.

How did you get your internship? Prior to my internship, I had spent time volunteering at Montgomery Botanical Center assisting in the collection of volatile scent samples from various palm species on the property. This project required detailed observations of the flowering status and patterns of the palms we were retrieving samples from. This eventually sparked my interest in Sabals as a whole. Upon the completion of my time volunteering, I was awarded the Peter R. and Stuart Y. Jennings Internship, where I had the opportunity to design a research project focusing on the morphological and anatomical traits and differences within the Sabal palmetto species.

How did your internship connect back to your coursework? This internship allowed me to put into practice the research design methodologies I had learned throughout my coursework and, as a result, helped reinforce that knowledge.

What was the coolest thing about your internship or that happened during your internship? One of the coolest aspects of this internship was learning how to take hand leaf anatomy samples and creating slides. Preparation of thinly sliced leaf tissue requires precision and a steady hand that can only be achieved through continuous practice and patience. It felt very rewarding when the Palm biologist looked at my slides and said, “It can’t get any better than that.”

What did you like most about your experience? The work atmosphere of Montgomery Botanical Center provided an excellent internship experience. The staff always had a positive attitude and willingness to help out when needed, particularly Dr. Joanna Tucker Lima, the collections manager, who set aside time to advise me on how to approach this type of study, and Dr. Larry Noblick, the Palm Biologist, who offered sound advice and taught me how to take leaf anatomy samples. Their help was invaluable, and I am truly grateful to them.

What did you learn about yourself? This experience has taught me to trust in my skills and ability.

How did the position increase your professional confidence? How did you expand your professional network? Thanks to Dr. Patrick Griffith, I was provided numerous opportunities to discuss my project with peers, which increased my professional confidence and public speaking. By being around other researchers, I also learned about different associations, events, and opportunities to further engage with others.

How did it help you prove yourself in the “real world?” It can be intimidating to participate in discussions with people who are presumed experts in their field, so having the opportunity to network allowed me to become more comfortable in discussing my ideas, experience, and knowledge with peers.

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? To those starting the internship process, my advice would be to not be afraid to reach out even if you don’t necessarily have the skills. You are more capable than you know, and by showing dedication and commitment, people are willing to teach you the skills needed to succeed.