Summer Internship Opportunities


Bald Head Island is part of a 12,000-acre island complex (Smith Island Complex) located at the mouth of the Cape Fear River in southeastern North Carolina, and consists of three forested peninsulas interconnected by a continuous beach strand: Bluff, Middle and Bald Head Islands. Bald Head Island features an upscale residential community of approximately 1,100 homes, with approximately 200 permanent year-round residents. The southern tip of the complex is Cape Fear, and includes ten miles of beach. The island is accessible by a private passenger ferry from Southport, NC. 

Funding for this internship is provided by Bald Head Island Conservancy, Inc. (the Conservancy), a non-profit organization formed in 1983. The BHI Conservancy’s mission is to foster community-based barrier island conservation, preservation, and education. The BHI Conservancy sponsors and facilitates scientific research to support individual and local management of coastal environments. In addition, the BHI Conservancy provides diverse educational programs and activities for the island community and serves as an environmental monitor for the island ecosystems. As a part of this mission, the BHI Conservancy also operates a nationally recognized Sea Turtle Protection Program, and is the only non-governmental agency in North Carolina allowed to conduct flipper tagging of sea turtles. Because of the Conservancy’s long-standing commitment to this conservation program, Bald Head Island is used by U.S. Fish and Wildlife as an index beach for sea turtle nesting activity.

On April 9, 2012, BHIC opened the nation’s first community-based education and research facility. The Barrier Island Study Center (BISC) is a 5,000 square foot facility, which includes a wet lab and dry lab for research and education, touch tank, media center, and public library for conducting and disseminating environmental research. Information gained at the study center will be shared with researchers and community members and will seek to find ways to live in harmony with fragile barrier island ecosystems. BISC represents a profound transformation in conservation, with the community having access to objective information and using it to inform their choices at individual and local levels. In addition to BISC, the BHIC campus facilities include a modern four bedroom “dorm” (used to house occasional overnight field staff, summer interns, and visiting researchers), and the gift shop Turtle Central, which underwrites much of the Conservancy’s operation. In addition, the Conservancy owns a 21-acre nature preserve on Middle Island, and employs a permanent staff of 10 and a part time staff of 5. 

Position Responsibilities & Position Summary

The Bald Head Island Conservancy Intern Program is open to rising juniors, seniors or recent graduates from any accredited college or university, with majors in biology, marine biology, environmental science, education, or a related course of study. The internship program is designed to provide young professionals with hands-on work experience in the conservation field at a small, non-profit organization. There are three concentrations for Bald Head Island Conservancy Intern Program including: Barrier Island Naturalist, Sea Turtle Protection, and Conservation.

This internship is intended to give undergraduates a well-rounded experience in working at a small non-profit organization. While the majority of the summer will be spent focused on a particular area (i.e. Naturalist, Sea Turtles or Conservation), interns will also be responsible for working at Turtle Central, staffing BHIC’s information center, assisting with other program areas, and helping with various office-oriented projects. Interns will also conduct individual research projects that match their interests. The research projects will not only benefit the student, but also provide the island, residents, and researchers with invaluable knowledge of the island and its inhabitants. Students will be expected to complete the research project and present the results to the community at the end of the summer. Interns will also be expected to promote and practice stewardship of the Conservancy’s facilities, properties, and research equipment. Interns will also participate in Conservancy special events, and live in the Conservancy’s dormitory during their service period from mid-May through mid- August (males and females will have separate bedrooms). All interns will be required to possess a valid driver’s license. (NOTE: Students selected for this internship position may wish to explore the possibility of planning a Directed Individual Study with an academic advisor from their school, in order to receive credit for activities conducted under this program).

  1. 1.     Environmental Educator / Barrier Island Naturalist Description

The Environmental Educator and Executive Staff supervise barrier island naturalists. As the primary educator of the Bald Head Island Conservancy, the Environmental Educator is responsible for the development, implementation, and coordination of its education programs.

Barrier island naturalist interns will assume the following responsibilities: 

  • - Assist the Conservancy with Budding Naturalists, a summer camp for 4-6 year olds, Junior Naturalists, a summer camp for 7-10 year olds, and Conservation Corps, a summer camp for 11-14 year olds, and lead an overnight camp for 7-10 year olds twice a week; Independently teach camps under the Environmental Educator’s supervision.
  • - Assist the Conservancy with a variety of environmentally oriented programs for the public, including but not limited to, kayaking, hands-on dissections, nature hikes and short lectures on such topics as invertebrates, alligators, sea turtles and barrier islands; ability to work in physically challenging environment including intense heat and humidity and bugs (mosquitoes, no-see-ums and black flies) while keeping an upbeat personality with the visitors. For a description of each program that we offer and that you will assist with, please visit
  • - Assist the Conservancy with the care and maintenance of tanks, displays and classroom space.
  • - Assist with conservation monitoring activities and wildlife emergency response as needed.
  1. 2.     Sea Turtle Intern Description

The Sea Turtle Program Coordinator and Coastal Ecology Program Coordinator supervise the sea turtle interns.

Sea turtle interns will assume the following responsibilities:

  • - Conduct nightly (9 PM - 6 AM) beach patrols on foot or via all terrain vehicles (when available) in order to intercept nesting sea turtles, as a part of the Sea Turtle Protection Program.
  • - Protect and relocate nests according to procedures defined by the state of NC or the Conservancy.
  • - Collect necessary measurements and flipper and PIT tag all nesting females, record all pertinent data, and protect eggs using a wire cage dug into the sand.
  • - Collect DNA samples for partner research projects.
  • - Assist in the response of sea turtle strandings including participation in necropsies as needed.
  • - Maintain ATV equipment as necessary.
  • - Assist as needed with BHIC’s various educational programs and research projects, including giving sea turtle lectures to the general public, kayak trips and assisting with camps.
  • - Be able to work in less than favorable conditions such as intense heat & humidity and bugs (mosquitoes, no-see-ums and black flies).


  1. 3.     Conservation Intern Description

 The Coastal Ecology Program Coordinator supervises the conservation interns. As the primary conservation biologist on staff, the Coastal Ecology Program Coordinator oversees and implements conservation monitoring and research activities on Bald Head Island.

Conservation Interns will assume the following responsibilities:

  • - Conduct nighttime spotlight surveys of white-tailed deer, American alligators, and red fox to determine population size and sex ratios.
  • - Assist conservation staff with island monitoring programs (maritime forest, aquifer, dunes and creek).
  • - Assist the Education staff with a variety of environmentally oriented programs for the public; ability to handle less than favorable working conditions including intense heat & humidity and bugs (mosquitoes and no-see-ums)
  • - Monitor golf course lagoons during the day for alligator activity and public interactions; respond to homeowner/public concerns about alligators.
  • - Monitor the island for recurrence of Beach Vitex (Vitex rotundifolia), an invasive dune plant species, and spray new growth with an approved herbicide.
  • - Assist with wildlife emergency response including marine mammals, sea turtles, deer, and birds.

Selection Process 

A selection advisory committee will interview candidates and rank applications in accordance with the Application Protocol for Research AssistantshipsAll candidates selected for the internship must undergo a background check.

Selection Criteria & Assessment 

Selection criteria for the internships is as follows: 

1.   Outstanding undergraduate (rising junior or senior) student or recent graduate at an institution of higher learning.

2.   Candidates for the internship will be evaluated on:  

  • - Initiative and ability to work individually and within groups
  • - Punctuality and professionalism
  • - Public relations and communication skills: outgoing, helpful and positive personality; ability to work well with children and adults;
  • - An expressed interest or background in the environmental field and a willingness to work in an environment that can be physically challenging.  


The term for the Bald Head Island Conservancy internship is for a period of three months: from mid-May to mid-August, subject to undergraduate academic schedules. Interns should be able to arrive on BHI on the weekend of May 16/17, though a day or two of flexibility may be allowed depending on academic exam schedules and be able to stay until August 15th. Applicants who have graduated may have the opportunity to extend their stay, as we typically extend employment of two interns through the fall. The interns serve at the will of the Conservancy, and the positions may be terminated by the Conservancy at any time.  


The stipend to be paid for the recipient of the Bald Head Island Conservancy Intern shall be $1,500 total per summer, paid monthly; this amount is pre-tax. In addition to the stipend, living quarters in the Conservancy dorm are provided, as well as weekly ferry tickets for trips between the island and the mainland, and parking for a vehicle at the mainland ferry terminal a total value of $560 monthly.  


The barrier island naturalist intern’s in-service performance shall be assessed by the Conservation and Education staff, and shall be forwarded to appropriate academic sponsor, if applicable. 

Application Instructions & Deadlines

The BHIC must receive your application for 2015 summer internships by February 1, 2015. Late and incomplete applications will not be considered. Interviews will be conducted during the month of February.

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