JERSEY CITY, NJ — As part of its goal to support a more sustainable future in one of New Jersey’s largest cities, Greener JC is turning to younger generations to help fulfill that mission.
The nonprofit environmental action organization is currently seeking public high school students from Jersey City to become urban ecologist interns to assist with a research project at Liberty State Park this summer.
As part of the five-week program, students will work 10 hours per week and receive expert mentorship, as well as gain new skills in wildlife documentation and scientific research. They’ll also be paid a $500 stipend, either at the end of the program or biweekly.
Launched in 2020, the internship program aims to give teens valuable, hands-on research experience and mentorship in the fields of environmental science, sustainability and biology.
This summer’s cohort will focus on how plastic pollution affects birds in Jersey City, according to Alison Cucco, a founding member of Greener JC.
Cucco, a biology educator and environmental regulatory specialist, said the project will focus on “assessing the migratory and nesting bird habitats” at Caven Point in Liberty State Park, one of the last undisturbed natural estuaries in the tri-state area.
Interns will pitch in with ecology research efforts, particularly collecting environmental field data and conducting bird surveys at Caven Point, the largest stretch of natural beach in Upper New York Bay and the Hudson River. The area—which consists of saltwater marshland, tidal pools, mud flats and an upland maritime forest—is particularly important for migratory birds.
As a result of the ecosystem’s ecological sensitivity, access to the interior boardwalk and natural beach are closed between April and October to protect nesting habitats for seasonal birds, but interns will be given special access to conduct bird surveys.
The project also includes working with New Jersey City University to examine if microplastics in the sand are starting to accumulate in marine food webs, Cucco said.
Interns will also produce their own research questions and receive help from mentors in designing an experiment to address those queries, according to Greener JC.
It will require field work in Jersey City making observations, as well as remotely. While Greener JC will loan out binoculars to aid in making observations, interns should expect to provide their own phone and personal computer for remote work.
According to Cucco, Greener JC is looking for two more students to join its team of four interns and applications will be accepted until July 22.
Students entering grades 10 to 12 at a public high school in Jersey City can submit resumes to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “High School Urban Ecology Internship.”
In coming years, Greener JC—whose work includes promoting the reduction of energy and waste, supporting sustainable development efforts and fostering partnerships within the community to boost resilience—hopes to “continue to expand” the internship program to accommodate more students, Cucco said.
During previous rounds, interns helped with projects such as surveying bird diversity in Jersey City and supporting Greener JC’s educational and outreach efforts, experiences they said have inspired them to continue advocating for the environment.
In a recap of her time as a student intern during the fall of 2021, Sierra Vieira wrote, “It’s one thing for someone to say to you ‘Hey, we should care about the earth,’ but it’s another thing to fully immerse yourself in the practice of trying to get people to care. You realize how hard it is to educate people and actually get them to care. Naturally, it was easy for me to understand these issues because I dived headfirst into what we were doing to our planet. The more I learned, the more I wanted to help.”
Vieira said her favorite aspect of the internship was getting acquainted with “all the amazing sustaunable programs that exist in our city.”
“I always thought that our city perhaps didn’t have the resources necessary to be conscientious. This program showed me that I was wrong. Our city not only has the resources, but our city has a community of people who truly care and want to help others be more sustainable. It amazes me to this day what we can accomplish if we come together,” she stated.
Working as an intern with Greener JC, Carolyn Abdalla wrote, “has allowed me to learn more about sustainability and environmentalism in Jersey City than I could have expected.”
“I have not only enjoyed working on these projects, but know that I have also developed many professional skills as well,”she said.
Kashish Makker said being an intern enabled her to learn about Greener JC’s ongoing initiatives, such as the Green Business Certification Program and Community Solar, which, in turn, helped her realize how important the programs “are to overall make Jersey City a greener and more sustainable place to live.”
She went on to describe the experience as “very eye-opening” and one that has inspired her to want to get involved in environmental sustainability clubs in college. It also gave her a new hobby: a love of birding.
“Being an advocate for the environment is something I want to bring into my future endeavors, and it’s all because of my time here at Greener JC,” Makker said.