Outside Classrooms, Inside Internships: JMC student Nora Anderson works on National Park Service video series

Outside Science inside parks

Dusk falls and the crew anxiously awaits nightfall, when the only light around will shine from the stars illuminating the dark sky. The first stars begin to glimmer, and the Milky Way comes into view. The park’s crew and visitors scan the sky in awe of the view that the park has worked to preserve. A Dark Skies intern at Voyageurs National Park kneels to help children locate constellations in the natural beauty of the night. CSU videographer Ron Bend stands at a distance capturing the interaction.

This is a snapshot from the most recent episode of the “Outside Science (inside parks)” series, produced through a collaboration between the National Park Service (NPS) and Colorado State University. Ron Bend, a video producer for CSU University Communications, coordinates with NPS and CSU student interns to produce this series. Current intern and JMC student Nora Anderson helped create and produce the most recent two episodes in the series and was featured in the Night Sky Voyageurs National Park episode.

A centennial connection

Bend and Anderson work together to convey the stories of young park employees and enthusiasts, weaving NPS’s mission of educating and engaging the next generation about science and the environment into the videos. The partnership between CSU and NPS dates back over 10 years, when it emerged from existing collaborations between University faculty and the Park Service. 2016 marked not only the centennial year for NPS, but also the takeoff of the “Outside Science (inside parks)” series.  Since its beginnings, CSU and NPS have produced 33 episodes for the series.

Anderson is the first undergraduate student and the fourth CSU student to be involved in the video series collaboration. “For the National Park Service, it’s really important that they reach out to undergraduate and graduate students to involve them in a lot of this partnership work,” said Bend. In his dual role as a videographer for CSU and primary contact for NPS, Bend is always seeking ambitious JMC students to work alongside him.

Balancing act

Anderson in Italy for study abroad, Spring 2020.
Anderson in Italy for study abroad, Spring 2020.

Anderson first met Bend when he spoke at a Science Communication Club meeting where he mentioned his need for students to help him with video production. As president of the club, Anderson had invited Bend to speak but didn’t realize it would lead to an internship with NPS. Even with a full course load and an internship with the Rocky Mountain Research Station of the Forest Service, Anderson decided she could not pass up the opportunity.

“The very real experience is the most valuable part,” said Anderson. “This has taught me about how the real world works with all the different checks that you have to go through to get things published and more of a real-world time-scale.”

Anderson has been able to apply skills from both her JMC major and her minor in global and environmental sustainability. “I learned all of the Adobe products through the major which helps a lot when it comes to video editing,” said Anderson. “With my minor it’s understanding not only how climate change is affecting our planet but how we can talk to people about it and how to communicate about these issues that are very real and very pressing to our climate right now.”

Behind the scenes

Bend in August, 2016 on Strawberry Island at Glacier Bay National Park.
Bend in August, 2016 on Strawberry Island at Glacier Bay National Park.

The episodes of the “Outside Science (inside parks)” series range from 3 to 5 minutes, each sharing an inside angle of the unique work done by the Park Service. While the videos are short, the work that goes into producing them is time-intensive and involves extensive coordination.

The process begins with an email from NPS to Bend informing him of the episode topic, location and park services employees he will be filming. Then either Bend or a student makes arrangements to travel to the field location and fly out to capture the video footage necessary for the episode. Following the shoot, Bend and his intern go through the interviews to form a narrative, editing the content down to 3-5 minutes.

For Bend, this series encompasses more than just producing videos; it places him into an instrumental storytelling role. “I think it’s really interesting to meet scientists to see what it is they’re working on and be able to tell their story,” said Bend. At the same time, he can connect with talented JMC students whom he can mentor in a professional experience. “It’s fantastic for the University to be able to bridge between our talented student pool and the immediate need in the industry.”

Informing the future

Working with Bend and NPS has proven invaluable to Anderson in forming her plans for after graduation. “My goal is to be a science communicator when it comes to climate change and help people understand it; and that’s exactly what the NPS media team does,” said Anderson. “They break everything down and make science not only a little bit more obtainable for people, but a little cool as well.”

Anderson is beyond thankful for this professional experience. “I am very thankful and I feel like I wouldn’t be in the spot that I am to talk about this if it wasn’t for the fact that I put myself out there in a scary way and went to club meetings and tried to network, and it’s really paid off,” said Anderson. “I would recommend anyone else to do just that.”

To learn more about internship opportunities in JMC, visit the department’s internship page.