In the summer of 2022, the Harris Center hired a total of nine interns from Keene State College, the University of New Hampshire, Antioch University New England, and Franklin Pierce University to help with a variety of projects, from conservation easement monitoring to conference planning to forest community inventory.
The 2022 KSC conservation interns (left to right): Jessica Lawton, Mallory Roof, Tate Fairbank, Veronica Kroha, and Taylor Jackson. (photo © Will Wrobel / Keene State College)
KSC interns Taylor Jackson, Mallory Roof, and Veronica Kroha look toward the tree canopy during a morning of forest inventory. (photo © Will Wrobel / Keene State College)
A Diverse, Hands-on Introduction to the Conservation Field
In late June, we wrapped up our ninth 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 Keene State College.
Under the mentorship of Harris Center staff ecologist and KSC faculty member Karen Seaver, a team of five undergraduate interns — Tate Fairbank, Taylor Jackson, Veronica Kroha, Jessica Lawton, and Mallory Roof — explored many facets of the Harris Center’s diverse conservation, education, and stewardship work.
Together, the team surveyed for vernal pools, conducted forest community inventory, documented trail conditions as part of a new accessibility initiative, pulled invasive plants, counted bats emerging from SuperSanctuary roost sites, contributed observations to the Biodiversity on Harris Center Lands iNaturalist project, monitored backcountry campsites on Spoonwood Pond for trash and safety hazards, assisted with Harris Center educational programs, and more.
As the internship program drew to a close, all five students expressed appreciation for their time with the Harris Center. In reflecting on his experience, Tate shared, “The most eye-opening thing from this internship is doing real fieldwork. I had done some of the basics…in classes that I’ve taken at KSC, but the real thing feels so much different….It’s not just pretending or playing the part, but real, actual work experience.” Jessica said, “Most of my experiences [up until now] have been self-guided or in a classroom. This internship has given me the chance to explore [other] ways you can participate in science…It seems silly, but this internship has made me feel like a real scientist.”
KSC conservation intern Mallory Roof records data at a forest inventory plot on Harris Center land. (photo © Will Wrobel / Keene State College)
The KSC interns performed a wide range of tasks, from evening bat counts to sprucing up the canoes used by our stewardship staff and summer campers. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)
Field Experience for an Aspiring Forester
In a new partnership with UNH Extension, the Harris Center also hired Donovan Lombara as the organization’s first-ever UNH Forestry Intern. Donovan worked closely with the KSC internship team to survey forest inventory plots, document trail conditions, and conduct invasive plant management. He also assisted with other activities related to forestry, such as conservation easement monitoring, trail construction and maintenance, and collecting nest tree measurements and other habitat information at Broad-winged Hawk nest sites monitored through our research collaboration with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.
Donovan shared that his favorite story from his summer with the Harris Center hails from his very first day of conservation easement monitoring, when he, Eric Masterson, and Precious Ozoh stumbled too close to a nesting Northern Goshawk. Donovan (under)stated, “That was exhilarating.” (Goshawks have a well-earned reputation as fierce defenders of their nesting territory, including diving at human intruders.)
Financial support for this internship was provided to UNH Extension by an anonymous Tree Farmer passionate about encouraging interest in the forestry profession.
The KSC conservation internship team often teamed up with UNH forestry intern Donovan Lombara (center-right) for shared fieldwork, including forest inventory, trail work, and invasive plant management. Sometimes, this work brought them to especially beautiful, off-the-beaten-path places in the SuperSanctuary. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)
Over the course of their internships, Donovan and the KSC interns survey more than 30 different forest inventory plots on Harris Center-conserved land. Here, a moment of well-earned rest. (photo © Karen Seaver)
“An Enormous & Critical Task”
Once a landowner has placed a conservation easement on their property, the Harris Center is responsible for ensuring that the easement terms are upheld, even if the property changes hands. In order to do this, the Harris Center must conduct monitoring visits to all of our 100+ conservation easements each year. Land Program Manager Eric Masterson calls this an “enormous and critical task” in our role as a land trust.
Enter Daniel Medeiros and Precious Ozoh, a graduate student (Daniel) and recent alum (Precious) of Antioch University New England who were hired as this summer’s conservation easement monitoring interns. Together with Donovan Lombara (above), they will have monitored more than 70 different properties by summer’s end. (The remaining lands will be monitored by Harris Center staff and volunteers this fall.)
Daniel said of his work with the Harris Center, “For me the most rewarding part of the internship has been seeing how significant a portion of the land in this part of New Hampshire is conserved, and how many people are involved and invested in that conservation….One of the most enjoyable aspects of my work has been the opportunity to observe wildlife and animal tracks on different conservation easements. I have encountered or found signs of beavers, porcupine, turkeys, grouse, moose, black bears, and coyotes, among other animals.”
Precious Ozoh, about to embark on a day of easement monitoring. (photo © Eric Masterson)
Rachel Ranelli, on The Mountain That Stands Alone, which is also The Mountain That Inspired the Conference She's Helping to Plan.
Spotlighting Research in the Region
Last but not least is not a summer intern, but a spring-summer-fall intern: Rachel Ranelli of Franklin Pierce University, who is providing vital administrative and planning support for the upcoming Monadnock Region Natural History Conference. This full-day conference will feature presentations on a range of natural history topics, with sessions on wildlife, wetlands and stream ecology, forest ecology and management, Mount Monadnock, community science, human connections to nature, accessibility and inclusion in the outdoors, and more — and Rachel is working behind the scenes to keep conference planning running smoothly.
Generous support for this internship and the Monadnock Region Natural History Conference has been provided by the Bailey Charitable Foundation.
The Harris Center is deeply grateful to all of our interns for their hard work and dedication, to our partners at Keene State College and UNH Cooperative Extension for working with us to create transformative professional development opportunities for undergraduate students, and to the Bailey Charitable Foundation and other donors for their financial support of these paid internships. We simply couldn’t do what we do without you.