Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Summer of the Trekker

One of our first outings with the Trekker on
 Savin Hill and Malibu Beach
It's safe to say that when I chose to intern at Save the Harbor/ Save the Bay the summer before my senior year of college, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Before I showed up for my first day in late May, I pictured a typical office job that entailed sitting in a cubicle, making phone calls, and typing away at a computer. I turned onto the fish pier on my very first day, and as the ripe smell of fish and ocean hit me all at once, I got a feeling that this really wasn't going to be what I expected. As fate would have it, I couldn't have been more on target with that suspicion. Instead of a cube farm, I was greeted by a small, open office with a group of 5 incredible fellow interns huddled around a small table in the "Intern Room". Instead of a computer screen and a telephone, I was met with a Google Trekker.
The second Bruce Berman uttered the words "Google Trekker Project", I knew that this would be how I was going to spend my summer. Without hesitation, I threw myself into the project, completing the training and watching countless videos and examples to gather as much knowledge as I possibly could about the incredible 50-pound gadget that was set to arrive at our office in just a few short weeks. When it finally arrived, I could hardly wait to put it together and to hit the beach for the first time. I expected the project to be a big hit, but I was quickly overwhelmed by the attention and the enthusiasm that this unwieldy piece of technology brought about. From the hundreds of questions from curious residents of the beach communities, to photos, interviews, and articles from The Dorchester ReporterSampan, and The Boston Globe, the Google Trekker project was an incredible experience that gave me a unique prospective on how local people feel about their beaches and the work that we do to protect and preserve them. Through interviews with these reporters and curious inquiries from beachgoers, I began to see a pattern in the type of information people sought from me.
Trekking along the beautiful paths of Spectacle Island
The most common question, as one could imagine, pertained to the purpose and function of the Trekker itself. To my surprise, however, very few people ever asked me why I was using the Trekker to take panoramic photos of their beaches. This may have been due to their initial confusion at the Trekker itself, but in hindsight, I do wish people asked me about the purpose of the Trekker Project more often. From being in the office at Save the Harbor/Save the Bay and witnessing firsthand the behind-the-scenes hard work and dedication that goes into all that we do here, I felt that simply telling people about the technical side of the Trekker Project was only giving half the story. However, experiencing their curiosity and enthusiasm, which stayed constant no matter which beach we went to, reinforced the project's significance not just to us at Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, but to the local beach residents as well. The insight I have gained from this, along with the history project conducted by two other fellow interns, helped to paint a clearer picture of what these beaches mean to their residents, how far they have come, and what work there is still left to do. As I packed up the Trekker for one final time and prepared it for shipment back to Google, I couldn't help but think back to the first day it arrived in our office, and how excited we all were to get started. Looking back on all the adventures that I shared with this colorful, chunky, and truly incredible piece of machinery,
Packing up the Trekker one last time before shipping
 it back to Google
 like when I had to sprint down the North Drumlin of Spectacle Island with it strapped to my back to avoid an incoming storm, and when a curious police officer stopped traffic to let me cross the road at Wollaston Beach in Quincy, I felt a sense of accomplishment and, yes, a little bit of sadness as well, like I was saying goodbye to a new friend, and in a way I was. We would always joke about how the Trekker was like a small child in that it required a great deal of maintenance, was temperamental at times, and needed to be carried everywhere. But at the end of the day, I will miss the Trekker and all the people that I had the opportunity to connect with and work alongside to make this project the remarkable success that it was!

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