Geography Students Aid Monadnock Conservancy Effort
Keene State alum Rick Brackett ’07 led nearly 25 Keene State geography students and two staff members on a hunt for changes to a parcel Keene conservation land Thursday afternoon in order to explain just what he and Monadnock Conservancy do and give them a chance to test their nature-navigating skills.
Professor of Geography Chris Cusack’s Sustainability Planning class took to the woods last week with compasses and maps to assist in the annual visit by the Monadnock Conservancy group. The practice included studying a map of the area, confirming the maps boundaries and visually assessing that the area, under a conservation easement, was not being used improperly.
“In geography we try to get them out as much as we possibly can. Geography’s about travel and getting outdoors as much as you can, and I can show them things; I can show them photographs or a video, but there’s nothing like real-world experience. Real outdoor experience is worth multiple lectures. They’ll remember this more than they’ll ever remember sitting in a classroom writing some words down,” said Dr. Cusack. “Several of these students are thinking about going into city planning and going into conservation planning, and we’ve had students working with Rick in the past as interns so this type of activity can give them a taste of what those occupations entail.”
The Monadnock Conservancy monitors between 15,000 and 20,000 acres of conservation land in New Hampshire, and Brackett said that a good amount of his job is checking to make sure that the conservation land under protection is being used properly.
“We’re looking for evidence of changes to the property from year to year. We do annual visits to our properties and things we’re hoping that we don’t see are residential, commercial or industrial development,” said Brackett. “Things that we do like to see are wildlife habitats, clean water and good forestry technique.”
With a major in geography and a minor in geology, Brackett has been working to help conserve the Monadnock’s region’s resources since he graduated. “When I was at Keene State I learned the skills we’re using today like map work, good compass skills, and GIS skills,” he said. “Dr. Cusack was a professor of mine and what we’re doing today is about a quarter of my job description—which today is navigating the boundaries of a conservation property and making sure that the terms of the conservation easement are being upheld.”
Even though the process of navigating the property was slow going and noticeably more muddy than a classroom, the students said they came away feeling as though they had been given the ability to test some of the skills that they learn in class.
“I think it’s definitely a beneficial experience and getting to know people that you can network with professionally in the future. I always think that being outside is more effective for learning, especially for someone like me where this is what I want to do,” said Shauna Sousa ’17. “Field experiences like this are really important because it gives a look at what real jobs are instead of just sitting in the classroom learning about them.”