Published on October 21, 2021

Concluding Thoughts with Student Conservation Association Interns

Student Conservation Association interns Charlotte and Greg at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary

Charlotte Hood and Tom Gregg wrap up their internship with us this week and we are grateful for all they contributed towards maintaining our sanctuaries and engaging and educating the community. Development & Communications Manager Carolyn Cushing sat down to talk with them about their experience and a long and fascinating conversation ensued. Carolyn compressed and paraphrased some of their comments into this summary interview format.

What did you find most gratifying about your internship?

Charlotte: Working with West Region Property Director Ron Wolanin because he allowed me to see nature with new eyes. He knew and shared about the trees, natural history, fungi, bugs, so much! Growing up in New York City I didn’t have as much every day interaction with nature even though I was studying ecology. Working with Ron out in the field put me in touch with nature in a new way,

I also valued the interactions with the community. I appreciated seeing how enthusiastic people were about making a difference through helping with removing invasive water chestnut in the Oxbow.

Tom: I agree. It was great to work with people and take direct action. The Connecticut River Oxbow is in better shape now than at the start of the season.

We also started up a number of programs like the Harvard Forest Buds and Leaves data collection project to track the impact of climate change. As we leave we are passing it off the Arcadia Naturalist Laura Beltran. I am excited that this work will continue. We are setting a precedent!

What is your ideal way of continuing work in the environmental field? Has that been affirmed or changed by your internship here?

Tom: I want to continue relationship building between stakeholders in the environmental field. I had an idea that this was important to me, but my internship experiences showed me how fractal relationships between landowners, hunters, and different conservation organizations are. And how important it is for them to be improved. There is a field called Environmental Mediation to train people to mediate around land policy. I am thinking of entering a certificate program to do that. I want to be a bridge builder.

Charlotte:  Relationship building and having conversations to build the social aspect of the environmental movement are so important--even when we have to talk about difficult topics like conservation and the movement’s history with Indigenous people. We need people from every corner of the world to be in conversation with each other.

As for future work, I have always wanted to work with young people to get them out in nature. So, it was exciting to assist Laura in her program with Springfield middle schoolers. We had to change our lesson quickly one day and ended up just taking them outside to look around and ask questions. They were so excited about the mushrooms that they saw. This affirmed my desire to be in environmental education.

What advice do you have for organizations that want to host interns like yourself? Or for interns that may come after you?

Tom: Pay your interns. Pay is the biggest obstacle to diversity in the workplace.

Charlotte: Yes, it is really important to make these opportunities accessible to all. I learned more in the last 7 months because it is so hands on than I did in college. This kind of experience should be accessible to all.

Also, the environmental crisis can be so overwhelming. Each one of us is only making a small contribution so it can be hard to see how it matters. It is a good idea to remind interns of the bigger picture. Help them connect to a network of those doing the work. Then we can see that our piece is part of a bigger effort that can make an impact.

Tom: And to those coming after us, my advice is to make those relationships. Find people you can rely on. Reach out to elders you can get advice from. Don’t do anything by yourself!