A Learning Experience

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Amber & Grace Mansfield

AMBER WOLF (left) WAS OUR INAUGURAL ALEXANDER DICKEY CONSERVATION INTERN. HER ENTHUSIASTIC SPIRIT EMBODIED ALEXANDER’S DEEP-ROOTED INTERESTS AND ABIDING RESPECT FOR THE NATURAL WORLD.

After many months away from my home state, immersed in books and classrooms as a junior at College of the Atlantic, I longed for a field-based summer learning experience back among Vermont’s peaceful lakes, dense forests, and mist-filled valleys. But,I wasn’t seeking a routine internship; I was determined to work outdoors, closely connected to nature, studying animals and their habitats, and contributing to their conservation. I was thrilled when I discovered the Alexander Dickey Conservation Internship. It seemed perfect, and it put me close enough to home that I could spend the summer with my family.

Working with VCE for 10 weeks this summer proved every bit as enriching, rewarding, and educational an experience as I hoped. Working predominantly on Mountain BirdWatch and the Vermont Loon Conservation Project, I found opportunities to both enhance my knowledge and to practice the skills I already had in a hands-on environment. Engaging with VCE biologists, local Vermonters, and summer visitors to the region, all of whom had observations and stories to share, provided a cherished opportunity to learn from others. And thanks to allI gained from these interactions,I was able to serve as an ambassador for those unfamiliar with VCE’s mission and the work it does.

These experiences, while utterly enjoyable, were also invaluable tools on my path to becoming a conservation biologist. Over the course of the summer, I realized that I really enjoy the outreach dimensions of conservation biology, especially the chance to interact with others. Each person brings a unique perspective, and each has a “story” worth listening to. These interactions increased my self-confidence, my passion, and my conviction that the work we do is vitally important.

The Alex Dickey Conservation Internship was a perfect way for me to better understand how conservation work is carried out in the real world. Learning about conservation science in a classroom definitely has its place, but living and breathing the life of a field conservation biologist makes it so much more authentic. For me, the process of studying and planning my career can’t be complete until I’ve immersed myself more fully in that realm, through a diversity of experiences. I couldn’t have asked for anything more enriching, fun, and exciting than my VCE internship to launch me feet first into that world!

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