Internship with FDACS DPI – By Nicole Casuso

Featured: DPM Spring 2017 Newsletter

During my internship with the Technical Assistance Department at DPI, I was granted the creative freedom to develop a innovative, visual, and interactive displays that represented the Division at the Florida State Fair held in Tampa, FL in February 2017. Celebrating the theme, DPI: 100 Years of Protecting Florida’s Plant and Apiary Industry, the Division’s presence was going to be larger than previous years and stand as the central feature in the Ag Exhibit Hall at the fairgrounds. As an adoring fan of museums and creative, hands-on education tactics, I dove into the vastness of the internet and utilized personal experiences to draft many ideas for the state fair exhibit. We wanted the DPI exhibit to tell a story and highlight the importance of the Division for audiences of all ages and professional backgrounds.

I designed the overall exhibit layout as well as several key display items with assistance from my coworkers in TA and staff from the Division’s five technical Bureaus (Plant and Apiary Inspection; Entomology, Nematology, and Plant Pathology [includes Botany]; Methods Development and Biological Con-trol; Citrus Budwood Registration; and Pest Eradication and Control).

A few main exhibit components included: Florida’s Agriculture at a Glance (a diorama depicting common or intercepted pests and diseases in ornamen-tal, agricultural, and natural landscapes along with general statistics about FL agriculture and the importance of soils); Endangered Flora of Florida (a reference guide containing factsheets based on 12 of the 49 federally listed endangered plants present in the state); and Trap Tree (real-life traps used in pest surveying efforts hanging from a structure that placed the size, texture, color, and shape into perspective for fairgoers).

My experiences with DPI and TA allowed me to hone several leadership qualities, from prioritizing and effective communication to balancing confidence and humility. I gained exposure to tasks that I had not before endeavored to complete. I formed new professional connections and inte-grated myself into the Division network. Many people, fairgoers and DPI staff alike, do not realize how much preparation and comprehensive planning is undertaken to prepare a successful, informative, and visually appealing dis-play for events such as the state fair. College-level curriculum and external work/internship experiences are equally important to students, such as myself, and young professionals interested in pursuing careers in agricultural extension and education.