Journey to the West - The beginning of my summer internship

Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 12:00pm


Chi Nguyen

Journey to the West - The beginning of my summer internship

After a long day of travelling from Colgate University in Upstate New York, with bumpy bus drive, long line of TSA check-in at Newark and a thunderstorm delay at Denver, CO, I finally reached Idaho Falls on a gloomy, chilly evening and was welcomed by Christina, the research technician at the Foundation. The sun had yet to set, so along the way, Christina showed me the Grand Teton at the far end of the horizon, peaks covered in little snow that will melt before the end of the summer.


I knew very little of Ashton and the surrounding area except for the fact that the Henry’s Fork is a tourist attraction for fly-fishing and that Yellowstone National Park is nearby. However, I soon fell in love with the small neighborhood of beautiful nature and friendly people who were always ready to greet you with a smile. Christina and I also enjoyed our little jokes on the famous Idaho potatoes as we passed by the vast potato fields along the highway.

I was a little bit nervous for the first day of work on Wednesday when I would engage in 2 hours of fieldwork on the Buffalo Fish Ladder with Christina, because of my lack of interactions with living fish for a long time and my adjustment to the higher altitude. As a Molecular Biology major at Colgate, I can tell you all day about the mechanisms underlying fish pigment cell deposition and hair cell regeneration in the sensory organs along the lateral line, but I am completely new to holding fish with my bare hands and identifying species and sex. However, the day soon proved itself to be the the best day yet of the summer. The Buffalo Fish Ladder is now officially the star of my weekly routine at work. The fish were as energetic and difficult to manage as they can be, but I am confident I will soon learn to be their best friend.

Fieldwork at the Buffalo Fish Ladder

For the rest of the day, Christina showed me a few places along the Henry’s Fork that play important roles in the river as well as to the Foundation’s various research projects such as water quality monitoring. The Upper Mesa Falls completely took my breath away with all of its magnificence and natural beauty. Along the Buffalo River where we stationed the fish ladder, the water was clear and blue as any world-class sea shores out there. I did not for once feel that I was working; I am contributing my time, effort and skills in preserving the beauty of nature right before my eyes.


I decided to come to Ashton and work for the Henry’s Fork Foundation because I was motivated to get out of my comfort zone and the indoor environment of college and research lab, and gain hands-on fieldwork experience, appreciate the diversity of nature and put a story to my work. With the summer internship rolling, I believe I will soon achieve my summer goals.