Research internships

We often need qualified and motivated students who are interested in undertaking research projects in coal-impacted regions of southern WV. We are particularly in need of students with backgrounds in geography, environmental law, geology, engineering, environmental science, environmental chemistry, biology, public health, GIS, or related fields and with a strong commitment to environmental justice. The results of student research will be valuable to Coal River Mountain Watch and other organizations in drawing connections between irresponsible mining practices and public health and safety.  Please continue reading below for examples of some recent research interships.

As an intern on-site, you would be living with other interns and volunteers in the spacious apartments of the solar-powered Judy Bonds Center for Appalachian Preservation, above the Coal River Mountain Watch office in Naoma, WV. You would have access to kitchen facilities, internet, and work space.

There is some flexibility to tailor these research positions for your academic requirements (summer research, undergraduate thesis, or master's thesis). These positions are unfunded but we are happy to work with you to help secure funding through your school.

Please email  us for more details about currently available research opportunities and an application.

We have opportunities in several fields for interns to do research and gain valuable experience. You may have ideas in addition to our listed projects and the following specific needs; just ask.

Specific needs:

-Agriculture. Raising, harvesting, and marketing hemp grown in our back yard, and organizing workshops or other events to teach about this growing opportunity.

-Conservation easement. Recruit and assist small landowners.

-Water, air, soil, and plant monitoring. Measure pollutant levels to determine the extent of impacts.

-Animal and plant life survey, especially for endangered and threatened species.

-IT/website development.


-Energy audit/weatherizing.

-Renewable energy installation and education.

-Sustainable economic opportunities.

Research Intern Spotlight: Austin Stewart


As graduation neared in my final semester at Indiana State University, I was uncertain of whether I wanted to go straight to law school, take a year off to travel, or work somewhere for a year. I was driving from Indiana to Washington, DC, through wild and wonderful West Virginia for a job interview, with no working radio and the windows down, when I started thinking about how beautiful the Appalachian Mountains were. When I reached my destination at my aunt and uncle's house, where I was staying for the weekend, I started googling things about the mountain range and what was being done to protect it. I had previously worked with a land grant agency, so I was looking at easements and groups who were trying to protect the natural landscape. I happened upon Coal River Mountain Watch's website, and I looked up their interships tab, the same tab where you are reading this right now, I assume.

I sent the email. I reached out to the organization and decided I wanted to try and make a difference in something I care about. I found a group of people who have dedicated their entire lives to making a difference in their community. People who stand up to corporations that treat our environment like a landfill. People who see the wrong that is being done in their community and are willing to fight until their last breath. I guarantee you will not be disappointed if you also take that leap of faith and volunteer with the organization. I was an English major in Undergrad and was not entirely sure what I would be doing while I was there, but when I arrived, I found something to do. I had previously worked doing land grants, and I noticed the organization needed more staff dedicating their time to writing funding grants. I offered up my idea, and they were thrilled that I was willing to take on that kind of project. They helped me gain a new skill for my professional development.

No matter what your experience is, you can make a difference. I got to see a whole new world I would have never known had I not sent that first email. I also worked with CRMW's Tadpole Project cleaning up the community and streams, and I lived in the solar-powered Judy Bonds Center for Appalachian Preservation with a hemp farm in the back yard. I am still helping write grants and any other work CRMW sends my way today, and I hope to be doing so in the future as well because I found a purpose, and you can too.  I will be attending law school this fall and hoping to do environmental law work in the future because of my experiences at Coal River Mountain Watch.

Research Intern Spotlight: Leah Finegold

I'm an Environmental Studies and Geology student at Oberlin College and am originally from Jacksonville, FL. I decided to spend my January term with Coal River Mountain Watch after learning about the organization while completing my final GIS project about changes in geopmorphology due to mountaintop removal in the Coal River Watershed.

This month with CRMW has been a fantastic experience, as I have gotten to learn more about the injustices of surface mining by spending time in the community and helping with mine monitoring missions. Also I conducted some baseline water testing around Coal River Mountain to have some preliminary data of healthy streams before mining begins. CRMW has done some great work exposing the water issues in the community, and I am thankful for the opportunity to contribute to this work while learning aobut the problems with heavy metals and acid mine drainage in the area.

Seeing the destruction of these beautiful mountains first-hand has been really eye opening. It was one thing to do research on the topic from the comfort of a classroom, but being here and seeing the coal industry's irrefutable dominance over these communities is a whole other experience. I admire CRMW for all the difficult work they aave done to better their community and save their mountains!

Research Intern Spotlight:  Julia Morrison

My internship with Coal River Mountain Watch provided me with an experience that will no doubt be one of the highlights of my graduate school career. They challenged me with a pragmatic quantitative research endeavor that applied the analytic and creative skills I had gained through the landscape architecture program at Chatham University. This real world experience culminated in tangible results that if applied and expanded can aid in the process of establishing ecological democracy in an area of social environmental injustice. An internship with impact is simply the most satisfying means to an educational end. It was a privilege to work with such a diverse team of dedicated passionate professionals who are committed to creating sustainable communities for the people of the Coal River Valley. 

Research Internship Spotlight: Elias Schewel


A native of Philadelphia, Elias Schewel is now a Masters of Urban Planning graduate student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.   After spending the summer in Rock Creek, WV Elias has continued to work with Coal River Mountain Watch providing mapping work and spatial analysis.  This work includes ensuring that water quality monitoring data can be recorded and analyzed correctly at watersheds of different scales, as well as interpreting aerial photography to measure the impacts of strip mining on land cover.  Currently, Elias is finishing a series of maps of the Elkhorn Creek, Pigeon Creek, and Laurel Creek watersheds that will show which areas were disturbed in 1996, 2003, 2009 and 2011.   In the early summer, Elias will complete this analysis for the Big Coal watershed to show the phases and full geographic extents of strip mining activity.


Research Intern Spotlight:  Rebekah


I spent 9 weeks interning with Coal River Mountain Watch in the summer between my junior and senior year of college. It was my first trip to Appalachia, and I really didn't know what to expect. The other volunteers and interns at the CRMW house quickly helped me settle in, and I learned so much just in the first week. As a civil engineering and computer science student, I spent most of the summer helping with technical research and data analysis - which turned out to be a great fit for me. For example, I set up a website to organize and provide access to various types of databases and documents related to mining permits, violations, and discharge monitoring reports. Aside from spending time in the office and on the computer, I also attended Tadpole Cleanup events as well as a press conference and a permit hearing with the DEP. Throughout the summer, I was able to work alongside CRMW staff and experienced what it was like to be part of a very dedicated and active environmental non-profit. My days were somewhat spontaneous as there were unexpected opportunities to visit neighbors or to travel down to Charleston for a meeting. Living in a house with seven other volunteers and interns became a wonderful experience, and I was able to meet many other environmental activists from all over the country. Overall, I had a great experience and am very glad that I was able to spend a few weeks working with CRMW and learning first hand about the impacts of mountaintop removal in Appalachia.