Introduction by Kirsten Holt, Manager of Education & Interpretation
Each summer Duke Farms partners with the Student Conservation Association to host residential interns on site. With these interns comes fresh ideas, an enthusiasm for the environment, and a chance to provide young conservationists the tools to find their way in the field. The 16-week program focuses on environmental education, natural resources, and agriculture. They are here to learn, to make an impact, and to interpret the Duke Farms’ ecology to our many visitors. You may see them removing invasive species, educating weekend visitors, or putting countless hours into preparing for our summer festivals. They’re an integral part of our summer operation and at the end of every season is an opportunity to see each one of them get a step closer to their dream career.
Danielle Rose is a recent graduate from California Lutheran University with a degree in Environmental Science and minors in Music and Geology. She loves to travel, to play soccer, and to explore the outdoors.
“The Student Conservation Association (SCA) and AmeriCorps have provided me with this unique opportunity to fly across the country to work as an Education Intern here at Duke Farms. Through this position, I have been able to explore a new biome, encourage environmental stewardship, and learn more about working in the environmental science field. While here, I not only saw my first ever flashing firefly, but I was able to learn all about this mysterious organism while preparing for Duke Farm’s Firefly Festival. Being able to impact and educate over 1,300 individuals who attended this event was incredible and it is something that I will always remember. Working on this project showed me how one small organism can unite so many people and has further confirmed my passion for conservation. One of my favorite parts of this internship was our team-building trip to Sedge island, where I was able to learn about the island ecosystem, bond with my coworkers, and see diamondback terrapins nesting along the shore. This position allows me to share my love for the environment with others and also enables me to expand my knowledge of invasive species management, vegetation monitoring, and sustainable agriculture.”
Beth Wasserman graduated from Rutgers University in 2014 and begins her studies at Montclair State University this fall for an MA in Sustainability Science. This is her third summer working through the SCA program at Duke Farms.
“Working at Duke Farms has been an invaluable experience. I was an Education Intern during the summer of 2014 and couldn’t wait to come back again this summer. I have learned so much about wildlife ecology and I am always eager to share my knowledge with visitors. Teaming up with my fellow SCA Education Interns and the Duke Farms staff, I have been able to help run weekend education programs and large-scale festivals for visitors of all ages. The hard work we put into these programs is well worth it when you see a child’s face light up with excitement over our various activities. I’ve also enjoyed attending programs offered through Duke Farms. I have learned about urban farming practices, kayaked through the Sedge Island estuary, and met birds of prey being rehabilitated by Delaware Valley Raptor Center. These experiences are something I will hold onto during all of my future pursuits.”
Lina Mann is a recent graduate from St. Mary’s College of Maryland where she studied Environmental Studies, Anthropology, Museum Studies, and History. She is currently pursuing a career in Museums.
“Working as an SCA intern has been an amazing journey so far. What I love most about my role is the freedom I have to explore different projects and concepts I am passionate about. For example, each week I work with the other interns to develop weekend programming for our roaming education station table. My favorite one so far has been our table on the lake ecosystem of Duke Farms. This internship has also allowed me to gain experiences beyond my role in education. Through our natural resource days I get to learn about the plants and wildflowers on the property. I also get to participate in awesome programs and events that Duke Farms has to offer. I have gotten the chance to watch the banding of baby Kestrels, attend classes on canning and food preservation, and participate in the amazing Firefly Festival. One of my favorite things that Duke Farms offers is the community garden. For the first time, I get to grow my very own garden. This year I am growing tomatoes, swiss chard, watermelon, basil, cilantro, leeks, broccoli, eggplant, peppers, and cucumbers. The photograph below is me with my very first cucumber!”
Sara DiVito recently graduated from Ramapo College of New Jersey with an environmental studies degree. With her degree she hopes to become an interpretive park ranger.
“My time at Duke Farms thus far has been a flurry of new experiences. I have learned so much – something new every day, at the very least. Although I initially applied to be a natural resources intern, I have been fortunate enough to be able to participate in the educational and agricultural aspects as well. I have worked at both Dogwood and Harvest Moon Farm, weeding and harvesting and cleaning – doing so has provided me with a more thorough understanding of our food system as well as deepened the respect I have for farmers. I have learned about many of the invasive plant species that can be found in New Jersey and have helped lessen their impact on the property’s ecosystems by removing and properly disposing of them. Each week, the other interns and I choose a topic to research and then share with visitors that weekend at “Education Stations” situated throughout the property; more often than not, I learn as much as I teach. This was also the case during the Firefly Festival when I had such a wonderful time swapping stories with visitors of all ages that three hours felt more like fifteen minutes. I have re-learned how to ride a bike, went kayaking and clamming for the first time in my life during a team-building trip to the beautiful Sedge Island, and can now identify many wildflower and bird species native to this region. One of my goals for the remainder of my internship is to learn how to identify as many tree species as I possibly can. I am so grateful that I have been able to spend the summer immediately following my graduation from college not just growing, but thriving, in a place like this, and to say I am excited to see what these next few weeks will bring would be an understatement!”