In late July, we wrapped up our eighth successful season of the Harris Center-Keene State College conservation internship program, a two-month paid summer internship experience for undergraduate students in environmental studies, biology, and related fields at KSC.
Under the mentorship of Harris Center staff ecologist and KSC faculty member Karen Seaver, a team of four dedicated and hard-working undergraduate interns — Michael Bullen, Zoe Dreyfus, Macie Flammia, and Walter Horgan — explored many facets of the Harris Center’s diverse conservation, education, and stewardship work.
Over the course of their internship, the team surveyed nearly 30 forest inventory plots on two different parcels of Harris Center-conserved land — some of which were on steep, brambly, difficult terrain. Here, a moment of well-earned rest. (photo © Karen Seaver)
During their first week, the 2021 KSC interns reviewed invasive plant identification with ecologist Karen Seaver. They would then go on to inventory and remove nearly 1,900 stems of invasive barberry from a site near the Bailey Brook Trail in Nelson. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)
A Diverse, Hands-on Introduction to the Conservation Field
Together, the internship team surveyed nearly 30 forest community inventory plots, pulled almost 1,900 stems of invasive barberry, monitored 6 red-backed salamander research plots, evaluated the accessibility of 5 local trails for people for mobility challenges, measured 4 Broad-winged Hawk nest trees as part of the Harris Center’s new collaboration with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, surveyed milkweed and monarch butterflies at a Harris Center-conserved milkweed patch, counted bats emerging from 2 SuperSanctuary roost sites, monitored backcountry campsites on Spoonwood Pond for trash and safety hazards, maintained and improved more than 4 miles of hiking trails, assisted with the Harris Center’s summer camp programs, and more.
Among their more unusual tasks was figuring out how to clean a raccoon carcass that was donated to the Harris Center so that our teaching staff could use its skeleton as a (stink-free) teaching tool. The team also researched, constructed, and deployed “snake hotels,” temporary structures that serve as shelter for multiple snake species — and as tools for snake inventory and education.
The internship team worked together to research and construct "snake hotels" for future inventory and education efforts, modeled after a design created by Vermont herpetologist Jim Andrews. (photo © Karen Seaver)
In July, the interns worked alongside community volunteers to survey for monarchs at a Harris Center-conserved milkweed patch in Peterborough — with all data submitted to the national Monarch Larva Monitoring Project. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)
“Quite a Big Step in My Professional Career”
As the internship drew to a close, all four students expressed appreciation for their brief, but productive time with the Harris Center. “This internship was quite a big step in my professional career,” said Michael. “It is an excellent way to put everything you’ve learned in class to the test…and we had plenty of fun along the way.”
Macie reflected, “This was my first time doing conservation work in a formal setting, so it felt really valuable to explore multiple aspects of the field in such a short timeframe.”
Zoe agreed, “In just the seven weeks of this internship, I feel like I have accomplished and learned more than I do in a school year.”
Tough days of trailwork, forest inventory, and invasive plant management were rewarded with a few mornings monitoring the Harris Center's remote campsites on Spoonwood Pond — which is canoe-access only — for trash, illegal firepits, and safety hazards. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)