Meet the 2022 Interns

Learn about this year’s outstanding cohort of Ted Smith Conservation Interns and the meaningful projects they are working on this summer!


Jake Wade

Alaska Climate Change Policy Communications Coordinator

Sitka Conservation Society

Jake is a rising Junior at Yale University, majoring in Environmental Studies and Economics. He grew up in North Pole, Alaska, where he enjoyed the beautiful Alaskan summers outdoors and learned to appreciate all facets of the natural world and how we interact with it. Through his involvement in student advocacy groups in high school, he came to realize that many of the issues facing Alaskans are borne out of a tension between environmental conservation and resource exploitation. In the future, he wants to do anything he can to ease that tension and preserve the natural beauty of Alaska. In his free time, Jake enjoys hiking, camping, bird-watching, and playing the drums. He’s very excited to be able to work this summer with an organization striving to protect the environment from exploitation in his home state.


Anna Mulhern

Environmental and Community Health Researcher/Advocate

Alaska Community Action on Toxics

Anna is from Minneapolis, MN, and a recent graduate of St. Olaf College where she studied biology, chemistry, gender & sexuality studies, and international relations. As a climate justice activist, she has written fossil fuel divestment policy, advocated for bans on PFAS, and organized with the movement to stop Enbridge Corporation’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline.  Anna is excited about the opportunity to work with Alaska Community Action on Toxics and advocate for environmental health and justice in Alaska. In the future, Anna hopes to work as an environmental scientist and lawyer to fight systems that privilege corporate power and profit over people and the planet. In her spare time, Anna plays ultimate frisbee, backpacks, and plays a lot of banana grams.


Nathaniel Harkrider


Alaska Marine Conservation Council

Nathanael is a Geology major at Cedarville University and is an Ohio resident. He is 21 years old and plans to Graduate with a bachelor’s degree in 2024 and move into the workforce. In the future, he plans to pursue Jobs involving protecting the earth’s natural resources and helping the community better understand the wonderful world we live in. This is his first time in Alaska and he is excited to learn more about the state and go on many adventures in it. When not working he enjoys hiking, reading, and taking long naps in hammocks.


Sydney Ribera

Development & Outreach Intern

Southeast Alaska Conservation Council

Sydney is an environmental scientist from Somi Se’k (Rio Grande Valley, TX) with an interest in ecology, geology, nature-society interactions, and Indigenous-informed conservation. She presented at the 2019 UTRGV Engaged Scholar Symposium with her research about the environmental and societal effects of the border wall in Somi Se’k, which includes interviews with the Chairman of the Esto’k Gna Tribe and local scientists. She also participated in the 2019 McAllen Nature Center UTRGV Internship where she researched converting excessive organic debris into biochar to promote local soil and plant health. She participated in the 2020 UT Austin Engaged Scholar Initiative Research Fellowship where she conducted research on designing urban landscapes to support pollinators and optimize sustainability. She continues this research and presented it at the 2020 Entomological Society of America Annual Conference. She completed her 2021 fellowship with US Fish & Wildlife for the Elevating Arctic Youth Voices project where she created an Indigenous Style Writing Guide and wrote about the Arctic Youth Ambassador alumni who presented at the Native Youth Community Adaptation and Leadership Congress. Her future plans include attending the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to pursue her master’s in agricultural, environmental, and sustainability Sciences.


Ian Blackwelder

Public Lands and Climate Change Intern

Audubon Alaska

Ian was raised by the California Coast. He graduated in December 2021 from Vermont Law School with his Juris Doctor and will be clerking for the Alaska Superior Court in Nome beginning September 2022. Afterward, his goals are to utilize the law to improve how humanity around the world interacts with natural resources. He is developing a growing interest in the power of corporations to change their social and environmental impacts by rewriting their incorporating documents. In his spare time, Ian loves to be outside and underwater, thinking about things on both a micro and global scale. One day he hopes to stop continental scale nutrient loss through strong partnerships of farmers, land developers, municipalities, and naturally simple methods of nutrient recycling.


Jenn Dera

Program and Outreach Assistant

Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association

Jenn and her family moved to Alaska in 2019 and live on the Kenai Peninsula. She is a Fisheries Technology at the University of Alaska, Sitka. She and her husband purchased their salmon seiner right before moving to Alaska.  Since moving here, she has been enjoying everything this incredible state has to offer, land and sea. She truly enjoys helping people in her community across the state. Some interests and passions include fundraising, food sustainability, and cold water safety. During the off-season she enjoys cross country skiing, helping out with the Center for Human Development’s Family ECHO project and volunteering for the Office of Boating Safety’s Kids Don’t Float program.


Kayla Walsh

Climate and Wild Salmon Intern 

Cook Inletkeeper

Kayla is a Master in Conservation Medicine candidate.




Olivia Kemp

Conservation Intern

Defenders of Wildlife

Olivia is from Asheville, NC, and is currently a rising senior at North Carolina State University studying Wildlife Biology. She loves mammals, conservation, outreach, and social media. Her previous experience has included working with advocacy, nonprofits, and outreach— all within the wildlife field. In her free time, she enjoys photography, hiking, and adventuring with her two dogs. This is Olivia’s first time in Alaska, and she is thrilled to have this opportunity, to learn more about Alaska, and be an advocate for such an incredible place!


Leah Shaffer

Environmental Conservation Intern

Yukon Inter-Tribal Watershed Council

Leah Shaffer is a PhD student at Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability, where she studies social-ecological systems and resource stewardship. Before graduate school, Leah worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District helping to develop a farmer training program. In the summer of 2021, Leah worked with FSWCD again as the Youth for Habitat summer coordinator. As soon as she defends her dissertation (in about three years), Leah plans to move here to start her career. She hopes to use that career to elevate often-ignored voices and Traditional Ecological Knowledge within the resource management decision-making process.


Gareth Miller

Youth Outdoor Educator Intern

Discovery Southeast

Gareth (he/him) was born and raised in Juneau Alaska and I am currently studying environmental science at Western Washington University. He plans to eventually go into some kind of riparian ecology field.



Grady Welsh

Peterson Bay Field Station Naturalist Intern

Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies

Grady Welsh is from Yarmouth, Maine. He is a biology major at Middlebury College in Vermont where he plays on the ultimate frisbee team. He loves to surf and nordic ski. He is very excited to be working at the Peterson Bay Field Station this summer.



Celia Darling

Youth Leadership Intern

The Alaska Center Education Fund

Celia Darling is a rising junior Political Science major at Clarkson University in Upstate NY. Celia grew up on a Christmas tree farm outside of Rochester NY which fostered her love for the environment. On campus, she is president of Clarkson’s Sustainability Club and of their Peace Action Chapter and a Food Waste Intern. Her background is in youth climate organizing. In high school, she worked with the New York Youth Climate Leaders to divest the public pension fund of New York and worked with the Rochester Youth Climate Leaders to establish a county-wide Climate Action Plan Advisory Committee. In her free time, she likes to hike, read, and do ceramics. Celia is so excited to be working with The Alaska Center this summer!


Mark Black


Aleut Community of St. Paul

Mark is a recent graduate of The Howard University in Washington, DC majoring in Political Science. Born in Miami, and raised throughout the Southern United States, he has witnessed the repercussions firsthand of climate change. From hurricanes to red tide, Mark grew up conscious of anthropogenic climate change. Unique to his advocacy is his keen interest in the legal and scientific recognition of TEK (Traditional Ecological Knowledge). He is particularly interested in the intersection of intellectual property law’s effect on TEK. Currently, he is barred to practice in one tribal court in California and is awaiting to be sworn into two others. When not preparing for law school in the Fall he enjoys hiking, weaving baskets, beading, and running. He is deeply honored and committed to serving the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island.