I mentioned in a recent post that it’s refreshing to get new perspectives about Maine and our work of conservation here from the young interns in our Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program.
Through a relationship with Bowdoin College, The Nature Conservancy is able to host two summer interns each summer. This year’s students, Marisa Browning-Kamins and Mariana Guzmán Márquez, are involved in a variety of projects, ranging from public outreach, collecting data on plants in northern Maine, to working with the government relations staff on policy issues.
Marisa is from the beautiful state of Oregon and is studying Environmental Studies and Visual Arts at Bowdoin College. Mariana, who moved from Mexico City to New Jersey at a young age, is majoring in Earth and Oceanographic Science and Environmental Studies at Bowdoin.
Marisa and Mariana recently spent a hot day building a trail at The Nature Conservancy’s Mount Tom Preserve in Fryeburg. To get a little perspective from Marisa and Mariana, I asked them about their hard day of trail work.
Mike: So, what it’s like to do hard, dirty trail work during a Maine summer day?
Mariana: It’s very rewarding. Although I’m not a fan of mosquitos, it’s great to have a chance to work outside and see the land management side of The Nature Conservancy. Trail work is fun and a great way to experience Maine’s natural beauty. More importantly, it makes it easier for a lot of people to go out and have a great time interacting with nature, which is really what it’s all about. Knowing that we’re a part of that is a great feeling.
Mike: What do you think of all the deerflies and mosquitoes?
Marisa: Compared to the buggy two weeks I spent in the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area this summer, I barely noticed any bugs at Mt. Tom! However, two LEAF interns did have an unfortunate run-in with a ground nest of angry wasps!
Mike: What’s the hardest part about the work?
Mariana: There’s a lot of critical thinking that goes into trail work. Where are people more likely to go? Which approach would better prevent erosion? Would this part of the trail get really muddy after it rains and if so, is there a way to get around that problem? Doing this trail work has really opened my eyes to the complexity of the decisions that go into projects like this. I’m grateful that we had a lot of guidance for this aspect of trail making. I used to take this for granted before I started working on the trails myself and truly believe this to be the most difficult part.
Mike: How does this work make you understand yourselves better?
Marisa: Whenever I get the chance to get out into the woods with The Nature Conservancy and get my hands dirty, I realize how important it is to be involved with a line of work that I feel truly makes a difference. I am a very visual person, so when I get to assist with a project like the creation of a new Nature Conservancy trail, I find it immensely satisfying to go home at the end of the day knowing that my efforts resulted in a tangible product.
Mike: Did you meet the LEAF interns?
Mariana: Yes! The LEAF interns are wonderful! All of the girls were very kind and seemed happy to be there. They were diligent workers and exhibited exemplary teamwork. Two of them got stung by wasps the day Marisa and I were with them and they didn’t even complain. The other girls helped tend their stings and asked them how they were doing. The LEAF interns were a joy to interact with. I’m glad to have met them.
Mike: What’s the conservation lesson you left with at the day’s end?
Marisa: Interestingly, my biggest take away conservation lesson from the day came not from the actual trail work but rather from the interactions I had with the LEAF girls. I was extremely inspired to be working with a group of younger girls that, despite the stresses and complexities of high school, still dedicated a portion of their summer to the conservation and preservation of nature. This experience only reinforced my belief that it will become increasingly important to involve younger generations in the protection of our environment.