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Community Engaged Internship Project

Understanding sea level impacts on groundwater and infrastructure through community dialogues in Beaufort County, South Carolina

Location: Beaufort County area

Sea Grant Contact: Brita Jessen

Additional Mentor: Juliana Smith, Long Range Planner, Beaufort County Community Development

Background and Commitments

A student intern will support the multi-disciplinary research program Beaufort County Adapts: Sea Level Impacts Beneath Our Feet by (1) designing and implementing an education module on groundwater and sea level rise, and (2) engaging with community residents to learn about local views, risk tolerances, and needs concerning groundwater change and municipal services.

The purpose of this Beaufort County Adapts research program is to measure groundwater levels in relation to sea level and storm impacts, and then model future changes to groundwater under sea level rise to estimate impacts on municipal infrastructure and social services. The intent is to help County residents and planners rethink approaches to sea level rise and flooding preparedness by considering effects to under-ground infrastructure in addition to surface-level flooding.  However, residents may be more aware of above-ground flooding effects and less knowledgeable about risks and solutions associated with groundwater change.

The intern will focus on building trust and two-way dialogue with residents on St. Helena Island, Warsaw Island, Alljoy, Mossy Oaks, and Shell Point. With guidance and support from mentors, the intern will seek out community representatives interested in an educational presentation, materials, and dialogue with the team. The intern will keep a record of community engagement, with a final summary of the questions and needs raised by the community members.

The internship is part time (15-20 hours per week). Ideally, the student will be based in Beaufort County (with office space at the County planning department) and have access to transportation. The student will be co-mentored by Jessen (S.C. Sea Grant Consortium) and Smith (Beaufort County) while participating in all aspects of the multi-disciplinary team functions such as bi-weekly meetings.

If COVID developments become a barrier, indoor meetings will be prohibited, and zoom meetings and outdoor meetings with community representatives and mentors will be allowed. PPE will be provided to the intern.

S.C. Sea Grant and Beaufort County are committed to ensuring a safe and welcoming environment for employees of all backgrounds, cultures, identities, and abilities. We will provide accessibility support as needed.

Please see our DEI Vision, Values, and Strategies page for more information.

Learning Outcomes and Outputs

Learning outcome #1 – An understanding of (a) the importance of groundwater levels for community safety and municipal services and (b) the impact of sea level rise on groundwater.

Learning outcome #2 – Experience developing meaningful engagement and educational materials on sea level rise and groundwater for a diverse (in some cases, historically under-served) communities.

Learning output #1 – Best practices on communicating complex information to communities with diverse perspectives and needs.

Learning output #2 – Summary of communities/individuals that were contacted and the outcomes of the interactions (e.g., questions raised, needs identified).

Time Commitment

15 hours per week for 10 weeks, between May 16 and August 12, 2022.

Stipend – $2,250 (additional funds may be provided for travel).