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Sylvia Kinosian

Forestry major, Land Stewardship Program participant

Sylvia Kinosian

In the LaPlatte River Marsh Natural Area, just south of Shelburne Bay, forestry student Sylvia Kinosian held one end of a piece of red string twenty-six-feet long. Her partner for the day held the other end and slowly paid it out through a clearing in the mucky forest. Both of these young women seemed wholly focused on their job: taking the measure of what invasive plants were living inside the circle described by their string.

"Here we've got honeysuckle and glossy buckthorn," said Kinosian, "and over there is common buckthorn." On their clipboard they wrote down their GPS coordinates and standardized estimates of how much of the circle was covered with which plants.

"TNC has already done a survey of the whole [LaPlatte River] area; they have maps of invasives in this whole area," Kinosian explained. "But we've set up experimental plots on just 40 acres that can be monitored to see how well the treatments are working." Kinosian and her teammates spent nine weeks over the summer working as as ecological consultants to land trusts, agencies, and other clients.

Developing 21st century skills in the field

It was a day's work for LANDS, the Land Stewardship Program, a joint venture between the University of Vermont and the Student Conservation Association. Kinosian and the other interns — six from UVM's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, two Brazilian students, and two from other U.S. universities — were selected from a large pool of applicants. All were awarded stipends, some received college credit for their work.

"While some of the program elements have changed over the last seven years," said Deane Wang, an associate professor in the Rubenstein School who helped found the LANDS program in 2007 and serves as its faculty adviser, "basically it's the same model of creating a conservation crew of college students that learns and then acts to serve the community with its needs to understand and manage the natural landscape around them."