Fishes and Rivers, Oh My! Biology Undergraduate Interns at NOAA

Internship Experience Takes Sanchez-Ruffra to Portland, Oregon

As a recipient of Hollings Scholarships, University of Houston undergraduate Rachel Sanchez-Ruffra spent her summer interning with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). For Sanchez-Ruffra, a biology major, her internship project focused on the permit process for researchers studying endangered species.

The Hollings Scholarship

The Hollings Scholarship Program recognizes outstanding students studying in NOAA mission fields. In addition to two years of tuition support, Hollings Scholarship recipients spend the summer between the first and second year of their award interning at a NOAA office of their choice.

This internship, which runs for 10 weeks and comes with a stipend, offers hands-on, practical experience. Internship opportunities range from field research to science policy to science education.

Permit Process for Research on Endangered Species

Rachel Sanchez-Ruffra
Rachel Sanchez-Ruffra, a biology major, focused on the permit process for researchers studying endangered species.

Sanchez-Ruffra’s internship took her to Portland, Oregon, where she interned at the West Coast Regional Office of NOAA’s Fishery. During her internship, she worked with an Endangered Species Specialist, focusing on how researchers obtain permits to conduct research on endangered species.

“I was interested in getting more experience on the policy side,” Sanchez-Ruffra said.

During the course of her internship, Sanchez-Ruffra interviewed a variety of employees about their recommendations for researchers needing to navigate the permit process. Her goal was to help clarify a process that can be confusing for many researchers.

This included preparing a report that detailed the process of obtaining permits.

“The questions I wanted to address were how do federal agencies get the data they need to determine a species’ status and how do researchers who aren’t federal employees navigate this process?” Sanchez-Ruffra said.

Final Research Presentation in Silver Springs, Maryland

After the conclusion of her internship, Sanchez-Ruffra traveled to Silver Springs, Maryland, to present her work, along with another Hollings Scholarship recipient from UH, environmental sciences major Jacob ‘True’ Furrh. As part of their scholarships, Sanchez-Ruffra and Furrh can also apply to attend up to two national scientific conferences during the fall.

- Rachel Fairbank, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics