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In late June, we wrapped up our third year of the Harris Center-Keene State College conservation internship program, a seven-week summer internship experience for undergraduate students in the Environmental Studies Department at Keene State College (KSC).
Under the guidance of Harris Center staff and KSC faculty, four outstanding undergraduate interns — Will Holden, Lizzy King, Bryan Mindermann, and Meaghan O’Dwyer — assisted with many facets of the Harris Center’s diverse conservation and education work. Together, the team documented 9 new vernal pools, surveyed 13 forest community inventory plots, helped construct a trail on the newly-conserved Hiroshi land, surveyed and pulled hundreds of invasive plants, monitored 4 conservation easements, helped prepare the Harris Center’s new pollinator garden site for planting, conducted weekly monitoring of our campsites on Spoonwood Pond, and assisted with educational events. They also collected a third year of data for a wildlife road mortality study on a section of Route 123 that bisects SuperSanctuary lands in Hancock, Antrim, Stoddard, and Nelson.
The 2015 KSC conservation intern team prepares to conduct a road mortality survey along Route 123, near the Harris Center’s Virginia Baker Natural Area. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)
The 2015 internship team shows off a pile of invasive plants that they removed from the Harris Center grounds. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)
This internship program is a win-win (…and then some!): the Harris Center gets tremendous help with our stewardship and education activities, as well as scientific data that we can use to better steward the lands in our care, and the students get an unparalleled, hands-on learning experience.
As one of this year’s interns reflected, “There is nothing more valuable than physically getting outside to learn and help with issues within our field. In a classroom you can memorize all the invasive species [there are] and the methods to deal with them, but if you don’t actually…see the invasives and employ a removal technique, then the issues…around them are more likely to fade from your mind. Knowledge is great, but applying knowledge and gaining experience are even better.”
KSC professor Dr. William Fleeger agrees: “Working in the field alongside conservation professionals helps the students see how their classroom education applies to the conservation challenges we face every day, and how even the things that we take for granted, like roads, can have significant environmental impacts. It exposes them to the demands and possibilities of the profession that it is impossible to replicate in any other way.”