In the spring and summer of 2023, the Harris Center hired seven interns from Keene State College, Antioch University New England, and the wider Monadnock community to help with a variety of projects, from monitoring conservation easements to installing kestrel nest boxes to removing invasive species.
The 2023 KSC conservation interns (left to right): AJ Haskins, Wyatt Ferrando, Ryan Rotigliano, and Donta Selden. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)
Donta Selden and Wyatt Ferrando check a trail camera. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)
“One of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had…”
In late June, we wrapped up our tenth 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 and KSC faculty member Karen Seaver, a team of four undergraduate interns — Wyatt Ferrando, AJ Haskins, Ryan Rotigliano, and Donta Selden — 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, pulled invasive plants, counted bats emerging from SuperSanctuary roost sites, monitored backcountry campsites on Spoonwood Pond for trash and safety hazards, assisted with Harris Center educational programs like our annual Solar Sprint, and more.
As the internship program drew to a close, all four students expressed appreciation for their time with the Harris Center. Ryan shared, “[This] was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had. The people I’ve met and the skills I’ve learned, along with the knowledge I’ve gained, will be a great jumping-off point for the rest of my college career and beyond. Every day I woke up and couldn’t wait to find out what I was going to learn and experience.” AJ said, “Being able to do hands-on fieldwork or go out and see the things I have learned from textbooks recontextualizes what an environmental major is to me.”
Applying GIS Skills for Raptor Conservation
In spring and early summer, Mike Valentino served as our Bird Conservation Intern, working closely with Bird Conservation Director Phil Brown on two raptor-related projects. One of Mike’s projects centered around locating breeding Northern Goshawks, which are something of a rarity in the Monadnock Region. He conducted surveys aimed at locating breeding goshawk territories, and then created a habitat suitability map using GIS.
Mike was also heavily involved in our new Kestrel Nest Box Monitoring project, helping with nest box construction, placement, and monitoring. For him, one of the most memorable moments of the internship was the banding of American Kestrel chicks who had hatched in the boxes that he had helped to install: “It was great to see our efforts come to fruition.”
Mike will continue his graduate studies with Antioch in pursuit of a career in the GIS field. He may even be returning to the Harris Center this fall to work on another GIS project!
Phil Brown and Mike Valentino install a kestrel nest box. (photo © Ben Conant)
Former Bird Conservation Intern Will Stollsteimer (left) and Mike Valentino carefully transfer a kestrel chick. (photo © Ben Conant)
The Time-Intensive Task of Easement Monitoring
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 120+ conservation easements each year.
Enter Jill Craig and Galen Kilbride, a graduate student (Jill) and an Antrim-based nature enthusiast (Galen) who were hired as this summer’s conservation easement monitoring interns. Together, they will have monitored more than 60 different properties by summer’s end. (The remaining lands will be monitored by Harris Center staff and volunteers this fall.)
Jill Craig smiles for a river selfie. (photo © Jill Craig)
Galen Kilbride and his cat pose for a selfie. (photo © Galen Kilbride)
The Harris Center is deeply grateful to all of our interns for their hard work and dedication, and to our partners at Keene State College for working with us to create transformative professional development opportunities for undergraduate students. We simply couldn’t do what we do without you.