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Environmental Studies Interns Help Harris Center Conduct Conservation Research

The Environmental Studies internship team at the Harris Center: (L–R) Anthony...
The Environmental Studies internship team at the Harris Center: (L–R) Anthony Oatley, Courtney Dillon, Brett Amy Thelen, Karen Seaver, Mickayla Johnston, and Mark Landolina

Keene State’s Environmental Studies program has had a long and rewarding relationship with the Harris Center for Conservation Education (HCCE) in nearby Hancock, NH. Through an ongoing partnership, Environmental Studies students are hired as interns for eight weeks in the summer to help the HCCE with various conservation projects. The work they do supports the HCCE’s environmental efforts.

Funding for the program comes from Keene State’s School of Sciences and Social Sciences, the HCCE, and generous support from the Caswell Foundation.

“The team surveyed 24 forest community inventory plots, collected data on 45 road-stream crossings, documented 28 new vernal pools, surveyed and pulled hundreds of invasive plants, worked on several Harris Center trails, and assisted with educational events, among other tasks,” said Brett Amy Thelen, the HCCE’s science director, who worked closely with the students and their faculty instructor, Environmental Studies Lecturer Karen Seaver.

Though the students were out in the woods in late spring and early summer, when the constant clouds of black flies and mosquitoes make field work much more difficult, everyone agreed that the experience was fun and rewarding. “Although we were never bored, it wasn’t always easy on the hot, buggy days,” recalled Mickayla Johnston, a biology major and environmental studies minor from Derry, NH. “It was easy, however, to find motivation in the fact that our work would be making a difference in the conservation of Harris Center lands, as well as the wildlife living there. I think that this was one of the most rewarding aspects of these eight weeks – knowing that all of our hard work was directly impacting wildlife conservation in a positive way. The hands-on experience, getting to work out in the field, was important, because that’s not always a part of our classes. Getting out and collecting data is something that will definitely help us get jobs in the future. I am very thankful for this opportunity and excited to use all that I’ve learned this summer throughout my future in biology and environmental studies.”

The team, with Karen Seaver, conducting research at a vernal pool. (Photo by Brett Amy Thelen)
The team, with Karen Seaver, conducting research at a vernal pool. (Photo by Brett Amy Thelen)

“I gained an experience that will serve me throughout my professional career,” explained Mark Landolina, an Environmental Studies and Geography major from Tolland, CT. “I learned countless lessons about what it takes to be a scientist, including how to collect meaningful data and interpret the results. I was able to get an understanding of the life of a professional in the environmental field. Through the Harris Center, I learned how to be a steward to the land by looking at nature through a sustainable lens.”

“Not only did we learn a great deal about our native southern New Hampshire environment and the creatures that live here, but also the importance of documenting the health of these ecosystems for the future,” said Courtney Dillon, an Environmental Studies major and Biology minor from RIndge, NH. “This internship exercised our problem-solving skills as individuals and as a team. We four interns used our strengths to work together and complete tasks with efficiency and accuracy."

And along with the professional knowledge and skills the team gained, there were also additional benefits from such activities as participating in the Harris Center’s youth-education outreach efforts. “The diversity of our work provided an interesting variety,” recalled Environmental Studies major Anthony Oatley, from Westmoreland NH. “Some of our lesser responsibilities enhanced my other interests such as environmental education as we participated in such events as the Keene Drinking Water Festival and the Solar Sprint. I not only had fun at these events, but I also got to share my knowledge and interest with younger people.”

To see the interns at work, check out the photos the HCCE posted on Flickr.