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WEC’s Kassidy King Learns Lake Management as Winter Haven Natural Resources Intern

By Katrina Rossos

“I learned a lot about lake health and water quality within freshwater bodies,” University of Florida senior Kassidy King said of her 2020 summer internship experience.

King spent this summer interning with the City of Winter Haven Natural Resources Division. Originally from Winter Haven, Florida, the wildlife ecology and conservation major gained practical work experience in the field of natural resources by assisting in a variety of projects, including rain garden planning, low impact development (LID) implementation, and wetland restoration.

Kassidy King cleans up trash that accumulated around one of Winter Haven’s lakeshores.

“I feel I have gained a great amount of academic and practical experience from this internship,” said King. “I have learned that it is important to be well versed not only in multiple aspects of study, such as ecology, hydrology, and botany, but also in ‘non-academic’ skills such as having a boater’s license and knowing how to write memos.”

The duties she took on every day were ever-changing — from testing water quality at multiple lakes and surveying aquatic plant life, to calculating surface and groundwater pressure levels for the City’s Environmental Monitoring program. King also conducted administrative work such as performing economic analyses on how hydrological factors affect the value of lakeshore properties, and she participated in outreach events at local summer camps.

Her main interest lies in human wildlife conflict and how stakeholder perceptions of different conservation and species issues affect management plans, and this internship provided her with a fuller understanding of lake management.

Kassidy King cleans off a wood duck that was covered in oil from an oil spill that occurred on one of Winter Haven’s lakes.

One of the more important takeaways King garnered from the internship was that individual stakeholders often consider separate hydrological and biological factors when assessing lake health. This means that what one person may deem a healthy lake, another may not because each person places more value on disparate features.

Additionally, King realized the importance of considering how different stakeholders, such as anglers and boaters, interact with the lake. These wide-ranging connections with these water bodies help inform a comprehensive lake management plan, she explained.

The most memorable day of the experience came when one of the lakes was impacted by an oil spill. King said this incident taught her “how much effort and diligence goes into reporting these type of events to the right entities and how quick one must act on this event in relation to cleanup efforts and public notices.”

After graduating UF in 2021, King would like to pursue a graduate degree with a research focus on conservation management and how it is influenced by stakeholders.