Each trek up a powerline corridor requires intense focus – both to avoid getting tangled in brambles, and to scan for anything small and buzzing. However, the meandering walks back down to my car allow a bit of time for munching on sun-warmed blackberries, and reflecting on my year at VCE.
My biggest takeaway from my time here has been a newfound appreciation for invertebrates. I had the opportunity to create and illustrate guides that did not exist for certain taxa in New England, invent modified window traps for capturing flying insects in the backcountry, design a new spring queen bumble bee floral resource study, and catalog montane invertebrates. All of these opportunities have opened my eyes to the diversity of invertebrates all around us. I am so grateful for the numerous projects – from fairy shrimp to mountain birds – I have been able to participate in, and all the kind people I have been able to connect with.
I will be staying in the Upper Valley next year, but moving on to a new role within the CRAFT (Community and Climate Resilience through Agriculture, Forestry, and Technology) pathway at the Woodstock Union High School, where I will be managing the greenhouses and gardens and teaching. My year as an Eco AmeriCorps member at VCE was the perfect stepping stone to this new position, and I cannot wait to share my knowledge of local ecosystems and research design with the students. Thank you, VCE, for an incredible year – I look forward to conducting future Mountain Birdwatch routes, and continuing to analyze Pollinators Under Power Lines data.
Two years ago, I was just learning to sweep net. I still threw the net with a shout of terror when a large, unwelcome insect would stagger out onto my arm. Two years ago, I had no idea that there were over 45 species of lady beetle in Vermont, or the incredible discoveries that lay in store. And perhaps most importantly: two years ago, the concept of a massive network of community naturalists, collaborating with a research organization to complete ecological studies was merely that—a concept. It was a groundbreaking idea in my mind, so different from my previous ecological work experience; the idea was intangible in practice. Mere months before I began serving with VCE, I had begun collaborating with a colleague in Haiti on a community-based reforestation organization in his community (SRDH). We had begun ongoing discussions on strategies to ensure our work incorporated all voices within his community. Little did I know that over the next two years, countless hours of my position would be utilized working directly with passionate naturalists across Vermont, each striving to further engage with their communities on a number of different ecological atlas projects. The concept of community collaboration and community-driven research became a reality.
The knowledge I gained over my two years of working with you all, VCE’s incredible naturalist network, gave us some ideas to incorporate in our own work. It has been truly an honor to serve with each and every person here, and I appreciate all the learning and growth we have collectively had. I encourage everyone to continue their projects, and continue asking important questions: whose voices are being heard? Whose are not at the table? Why is that? How can we collaborate, as a community, to collectively achieve a future where the needs of everyone, human and non-human, can be met?