Sweetgrass Community Association Student Environmental Internship

Watauga County, NC
Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The SweetGrass Community Association (SGCA) is partnering with Appalachian State University Department
of Biology to provide an internship opportunity in 2021. This opportunity will offer an Intern an experience that
will combine:

  • hands-on fisheries conservation work on a high-quality reach of the Boone Fork Creek and impounded lake and surrounding lands;
  • aiding the SGCA’s Water Support Group (WSG) in assessing lake, streams, fish and invertebrate community for the purpose of better assessing and improving the cold- water fishery and recreational fishing experience;
  • teaching and interpretive opportunities related to fish and aquatic insect identification and natural history; and
  • possibly pursuing a flora, fauna, or ecology-based biology research project on the grounds in order to determine the opportunities for, and likely success of, efforts to improve the recreational fishery.


  • Interns will study and evaluate SweetGrass water and related eco-system resources to assist the WSG in their effort to both assess and enhance the current cold-water fishery comprising approximately a one-mile reach of Boone Fork Creek, a 22-acre Sweetwater Lake impoundment, and a discharge basin in Watauga County, NC.
  • Interns will complete one or more projects designed to complement the intern’s educational goals in the field of Biology (or related fields). The project or projects will also be designed to support the SGCA goals of both assessing the conditions of the current fishery and helping identify ways to ensure an enhanced, sustainable fishery in the future.

  • Intern will compile a final report based on the intern’s project(s) and the intern’s general research related to a) assessment of the Sweetgrass fishery and b) recommendations for maintaining and improving the fishery ecosystem in the future.

  • The intern will gain experience interacting with interested non-professionals by working with the members of the Water Support Group and members of the SweetGrass community who will support the work of the intern. This experience will include explaining how the intern’s project(s) support the objectives of the WSG and sharing ideas for future projects and initiatives with WSG members and the SweetGrass community.

About SweetGrass
Sitting at the foot of Grandfather Mountain in the High Country of North Carolina just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, SweetGrass is a private, gated residential community. By car, the property is 20 minutes from the ASU campus. SweetGrass is distinguished by its water bodies and the large areas of meadow and forest that are owned in common and protected from development. Of particular note for this internship are:

  • Boone Fork Creek: This ½ mile long section of protected stream supports a population of brook, brown, and rainbow trout. To protect Boone Fork Creek for future generations, the size of stream-side buffers has been extended and its flood plains preserved from development.
  • SweetGrass Lake: At the heart of SweetGrass is a 22-acre lake fed by Boone Fork Creek and several smaller tributaries. Like the Creek, SweetGrass Lake has a resident trout population as well as other high-country fish species that provide good recreational fishing.

  • The system of parks and trails that exists throughout community also run through protected meadows and woods surrounding the Boone Fork Creek and SweetGrass Lake.

  • SweetGrass Lake has a dock and canoe and kayak racks that are used by residents and their guests to boat and fish on the lake.

Internship roles and responsibilities:
The intern would be expected to commit an average of approximately 10 hours per week to working on projects supporting the goals of this internship, including research activities, interactions with the SweetGrass WSG, and the faculty advisor. This work will include periodic visits to SweetGrass coordinated with the WSC. It is anticipated that the work flow will roughly follow the outline below.

1. WSG will provide the intern and faculty advisor with data on the history and status of the fishery at
SweetGrass for review by the intern and advisor.
a. Tour of SweetGrass community and waters
b. Past data collection and analyses
i. Water quality
ii. Fish species
iii. Supporting ecosystem
c. Issues of concern
i. Dam management
ii. Erosion and sedimentation
iii. Fishing regulations
iv. Fishery enhancement programs

2. Intern and faculty advisor will meet with the WSG to setup the internship program.
a. Review existing information and discuss the WSG’s aspirations for the fishery.
b. Establish a framework for communication and exchange of ideas, including points of contact among the intern, faculty advisor, and WSG.
c. Discuss SweetGrass expectations for monitoring and review of the intern’s activities at SweetGrass.
i. Prior notification of visits.
ii. Activity Log.

3. Intern, in consultation with the faculty advisor and informed by existing information about the fishery, provides an outline of the activities proposed as part of the internship.
a. Issues of concern
b. Initial literature review
c. Proposed activities: purpose, methods, and schedule
d. Resource needs
i. Materials
ii. Support from the WSG members
e. Plan for sharing results and recommendations.
4. Execution of the proposed activities
a. Activity log
b. Progress reports
5. Sharing results and recommendations with the WSG, SweetGrass Board, and the community as a whole.
a. Presentation and Discussion
b. Final Report
6. It is likely that the projects and activities proposed would necessitate:
a. Regular Creek and Lake data collection.
b. Occasional educational outreach and conservation promotion with residents.

c. Environmental assessment of Sweetgrass Lake, the Boone Fork headwaters and tailwaters, and the 6 spring streams feeding the Lake.

Other supported efforts:

  • Review if past data collection and community experience that pertain to the goals of the Internship;

  • Periodic update and assessment of seasonal water chemistry;
  • Assessment of sediment transport and bank stability;
  • Aquatic plant diversity and standing crop assessments;
  • Fish population aging and size assessment, standing biomass estimation, and the reproductive fitness;
  • Identification of benthic macro invertebrate assemblages and standing biomass;
  • Communicate with the WSG and incorporate current knowledge of science and resource management into recommendations for future consideration by the WSG, the SGCA Board, and the SweetGrass community.
  • Game camera traps for assessment of aquatic mammal and bird populations that influence the SweetGrass water bodies and the fish populations (i.e., otter, beaver, muskrat, osprey, eagle, ducks, etc).
  • Working together with SGCA personnel on activities support the internship project goals and assisting the community in habitat restoration and improvement efforts.

Benefits provided to the Intern:
Upon meeting the requirements and acceptance of an offered internship:

  • The SGCA would provide hourly wages at $10 per hour for these weekly and seasonal activities and, in collaboration with the ASU faculty sponsor, monitor internship activities to assure that the necessary documentation was maintained and turned in by the Intern (e.g., visit dates, activities, and hours worked; review of periodic summaries of reconnaissance and research activities and recommendations for improved management of the water bodies and associated ecosystem features), and that research activities and recommendations support the educational and resource management goals of the internship.
  • SGCA  would be able to provide a stipend of $2,000 covering a period of 20 weeks of work (assuming an average of 10hrs/wk x $10/hr) for this spring and summer.  Additional funding is available for continuation of the work in the fall semester if the initial work goes well.
  • Access to a beautiful biological community embedded in the High Country mountains while providing an opportunity to address conservation issues, assess water quality and fish and wildlife populations.

App State Biology Component

  • Students selected for this position can apply the experience towards their required coursework by working with Dr. Shea Tuberty (Professor and Assistant Chair of Student Affairs, tubertysr@appstate.edu, 828-262-6857) to register for BIO3500 Independent Research (1-6hrs), BIO4501 Capstone Independent Research, BIO4900 Internship (1-6hrs), BIO4910 Capstone Internship (3hrs), BIO4518 Honors Research or BIO4519 Honors Thesis.
  • Students research interests in creating flora and fauna species surveys for the SweetGrass property are encouraged and advising for such an endeavor can be arranged through ASU departmental and SGCA/WSG leadership.

To Apply: Please Email Dr. Tuberty (tubertysr@appstate.edu) your letter of interest (detailing your career goals, interest in this internship, and related personal, course and research experience), and resume or CV (review of applications begins April 15 st 2021, although applications accepted until position filled). Position to begin by end of spring semester.