Chasing Careers in Conservation
Autumn as arrived. As the leaves begin to change we want to take a moment to reflect on this year's exciting (and humid) summer season. Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (Forest Society) interns and seasonal staff have been busy this summer, in the woods, on mountains, ponds and trails, and in the office, too. Internships have long been a part of the fabric of the “crazy quilt” that is summer at the Forest Society (President-Forester Jane Difley even began her career as a forester as a Forest Society intern at Gap Mountain), but in recent years we've expanded and significantly improved our internship program.
Eight individuals interned with the Forest Society in Summer 2018, applying their knowledge and expertise to further conservation and stewardship goals while learning new skills at the same time. Many of these internships are field-based, assisting with stewardship tasks and providing outreach to visitors at popular reservations such as Mount Major, Grafton Pond and the Merrimack River Outdoor Education and Conservation Area (MROECA). Others, such as this year’s Business Internship and Outreach/GIS internship, involve much more time at our Concord office.
For Outreach/GIS intern Kirsten Gehl, who was tasked with doing some research and GIS spatial analysis on the Merrimack River watershed, this was the first time she applied some of those hard skills she is learning in her college classes to a real-life application. “I loved finding answers to questions I was asking just by using what I learned in school. That was so enlightening.”
Internships allow those just starting out in their conservation careers to see what it’s like to work for a land trust, with opportunities for job shadowing staff in positions they might be interested in filling someday. Lauren Quest, one of two Mount Major Trail Stewards this summer, says she learned a lot about how the public views the Forest Society’s conservation work and how grateful most people are that they will have access to Mount Major in perpetuity. “Seeing that and experiencing people’s gratitude day after day made me very happy to be working for the Forest Society.” she says. “That is my biggest take-away message from the summer.”
Not everyone who interns with the Forest Society is at the beginning of their careers. Some, like Floodplain Ranger Ryan Paradis, are switching to a conservation career after working for years in an unrelated field. One of Ryan’s summer projects involved creating an illustrated encyclopedia of sorts for the 300+ species of plants and animals known to exist at our MROECA floodplain property in Concord. This guide is something that future floodplain rangers can download on their phones and have available to help interpret what they are seeing on the property to the public. Since he just completed a Masters degree in Environmental Science at Southern NH University (Manchester) this spring, Ryan will be looking for full-time employment this fall, hopefully in a conservation field.
Other current interns include Derek Colquhoun, a school teacher who enjoys hiking and interacting with hikers at Mount Major during the summer, and two retired individuals, Francoise Crowell and Joe Doran, who spend time working outdoors and interacting with the public at Grafton Pond. The Grafton Pond Lake Host Rangers paddle the pond and staff the boat ramp talking to visitors about best practices for preventing the spread of invasive aquatic species and protecting threatened wildlife like the common loons that breed on Grafton Pond. “I enjoy it so much,” says Joe Doran, a semi-retired teacher, “I love talking to people about the pond, the loons, and the Forest Society.”
The Forest Society benefits greatly from our interns, too. We get lots of great work done, sure, but even more important than that are the great ideas and fresh perspective that an influx of new staff can bring to an organization. Interns at the Forest Society are encouraged to participate in staff meetings and events, field trips and volunteer workdays, and to let us know what they think about everything they’re seeing and doing. Everyone is learning something in a successful internship program: the interns, our members and visitors to our reservations, and the Forest Society.
“We’re so thankful for your enthusiasm and ideas,” remarked Board Chair Deanna Howard at a recent meeting with some of the 2018 interns, “I know the Forest Society has learned as much from you as you have from us!”