Kate Svitek Memorial Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship Recipient Letters of Appreciation 2013
In memory of Kate Svitek former Rubenstein School student
- By Anna Smiles-Becker
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Svitek,
Thank you so much for choosing me as an honored recipient of the Kate Svitek Memorial Grant this summer. With your generous support, I was able to work for two non-profit organizations in Vermont, devoted to the stewardship and preservation of the beautiful earth that we live in.
I started the summer off with an unforgettable experience through the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC). Specifically, I was drafted into a women’s leadership development corps, designed to empower women with support and leadership skills within a small group. At first, I was a little skeptical about the notion of ten women living in close quarters for eight straight weeks, but after my first couple of days, we began to feel like a close-knit family. Teamwork was really the driving theme of this experience, and I feel extremely thankful to have been part of such a dynamic team.
For the second half of summer, I served as a Natural History intern with the Hogback Mountain Conservation Association (HMCA). As the NH intern, I developed and executed a study on the connection between specific plants and the habitats that they are found in. In order to conduct this study, I first had to establish three plots in commonly occurring habitats on the mountain. Next, I used a digital camera to document every plant species that occurred within my plot. Then, I compiled the data onto a Microsoft Excel sheet, identified all of the specimens, and compiled the data of soil pH tests, bedrock depth tests, and percent cover analysis onto the spreadsheet. Lastly, I condensed all of the data and formatted it into a page accessible to the public, which was posted to the HMCA’s website. In retrospect, this internship was one of the most self-enlightening experiences of my professional career. Up until that point, I had never had to act as my own boss or run my own independent research project. Now that I have, I feel incredibly empowered and thankful to have gotten the chance to.
In closing, I wanted to extend my heartfelt thanks to your family for giving me the opportunity to learn in such an essential and meaningful way. I have learned a multitude of important lessons this summer, met a lot of great people, and have given many services back to nature. None of this self-growth and empowerment would’ve been possible without the Kate Svitek Memorial Foundation. Thank you again for helping me achieve the impossible and move one step closer to my dreams.
Amie M. Schiller
Dear Svitek Family,
Thank you so very much for the opportunity that the award you provided gave me this summer. I did an amazing internship with the Rubenstein School while I worked under Professor J. Ellen Marsden.
My internship, in the broadest terms possible, consisted of a population project on Lake Whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis), which is a species of fish that currently inhabits the waters of Lake Champlain. For some reference, here is a photo of myself holding a large adult Lake Whitefish.
I performed a wide variety of tasks from day to day, with the location of my work being in three different places. Most mornings were spent extracting DNA in a genetics lab on campus, which was equipped with a ton of instruments for all sorts of DNA analysis. Then, in the afternoon I would generally relocate down to the Rubenstein Ecosystems Laboratory located in the same building as the Echo Center aquarium on the edge of the lake. Lastly, periodically, I would get the chance to participate in the actual sampling of the fish. This meant that I got to go out on the research boats owned by the school on beautiful days and haul in gillnets full of new fish whose DNA still needed to be extracted. Approximately 70% of the fish that I was taking DNA from were quite tiny unlike the picture above. Most of these larval fish were around 1cm in length.
Later on in my work I did what is called PCR ,which is short for Polymerase Chain Reaction, and is a series of many temperatures that promotes the synthesis of lots of copies of a specific sequence of DNA that we are looking to study. Much of the results are still not back even today, and so I am continuing to work on the project into the semester!
I am confident that this internship will someday be the final factor that lands me a job, and I may not have been able to do it without this award. Thank you so much!
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Svitek,
I would like to thank you for providing me with the opportunity to participate in an internship this summer. Your financial support with my internship provided me with the ability to help many people in need. I was able to take part in an internship with Feeding Children Everywhere, a non-profit organization where I spent the summer organizing meal-packing events. The meal that Feeding Children Everywhere distributes is a healthy option that helps to solve hunger issues locally and internationally.
I spent my time with a group of seven other interns organizing a large event in July. The meals from this event were delivered to an orphanage in Uganda for distribution throughout the region. We were able to send 250,000 meals to the orphanage through this event. We mobilized over 500 volunteers in order to package the meals in just over three hours. We also participated in two other events in the beginning of the summer, including a project that sent meals to Oklahoma to help those affected by the natural disaster. The meals from the other event stayed in Meriden, CT, where 7 out of 10 children receive school lunch aid.
I was able to learn more about the way non-profits work through this internship by spending my time at meetings, making phone calls, mobilizing volunteers, and attending events. Your generous gift provided me with the money needed for frequent commuting between my hometown and Hartford, CT. I learned a lot about non-profit management through this internship, but more importantly, I learned how to mobilize volunteers to do something good for one’s community. People are hungry both at home as well as abroad, and providing them with a healthy meal option could mean the world to them.
I feel privileged to have been involved with this internship this summer, and I look forward to working with this organization when I graduate from UVM. They are expanding across the country in order to be able to host events in more locations nationwide. I believe this organization will make large strides in solving both local and global hunger. I look forward to participating with them in making the world a better place. I cannot thank you enough for your kindness and generosity. If you have any more questions feel free to contact me.
Dear Svitek Family,
I have been working with the City of Burlington at the Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO) at City Hall as an intern for the summer of 2013. At the University of Vermont I had been taking courses related to my major, Environmental Studies. In one of the classes I met a woman named Kesha Ram who explained what CEDO was and how she works with the people of Burlington and always connects what work she does to the environment. I had no idea how useful background on natural resources and the environment might be while working in a city government.
Originally I am from New York City and, like Kate, have adventured out during my teen years and completed a NOLS course in the Absoroka Mountains. It completely changed my life to say the least. I had a burning passion to protect the natural world to the best of my ability. I knew what I wanted to focus my life on from that moment I shared with those mountains. I applied to UVM and am in my senior year here. This summer I worked with CEDO on some of the city’s sustainability initiatives. I was partnered with a high school student and acted as a mentor. We looked at Resilient Communities for America as well as Adopt a Drain Programs. I have learned that there is a lot that has to go into something other than passion. However, little can be done without that spurt of enthusiasm and understanding of the importance of some of these projects.
Working with a younger student and seeing her ask questions on environmental issues and really questioning things really stuck with me. I was so impressed with how she handled some of the tough things we learned about regarding the environment and some issues we wrestled with. To the right, is a picture of Mayor Weinberger (center) and Katie (my sustainability partner) and other businesses owners who worked on the Carbon Cup. It was a program to get people to use alternative transportation to their businesses or schools. Burlington Received the Carbon Cup and Katie (right) is holding it.
I am so appreciative of the opportunity that you have given me this summer. I hope to continue my work with CEDO for a while longer as I am now turning some of the work I have done into my Senior Capstone (or final project). I strongly believe that the passion that has driven so many people to pursue issues in the environment will continue to grow and make people strive to be better and to do better.
Thank you again for this opportunity.
Dear Svitek Family,
Thank you so much for helping me finance my research experience this past summer! As an undergraduate student, sources of funding can sometimes be difficult to come by, especially for more costly research projects. While there were times I thought I would not be able to afford completing my entire project, your contribution was immensely helpful in covering my budget; I probably could not have done it without you.
This past summer, I spent the month of July on a research expedition with three other students to northern Mongolia through the Mongolian-American Aquatic Ecology Research Initiative (MAAERI) and Rutgers University. The project’s overall goal is to assess how climate change could be affecting the populations of several endangered fish species in the cold-water lakes and rivers of the region. The logic is that as climate change progresses, these aquatic systems will gradually become warmer, reducing the available cold-water habitat as well as placing various other stresses on the fish. Through our research, we are hoping to gain a better understanding of what these specific stresses might be.
To be accepted into the program, each student had to write a proposal for his or her own research project to pursue individually during the trip. A wide variety of topics were selected by our group, ranging from an assessment of shoreline grazing impact on aquatic insect communities to an investigation of the extent of plastic pollution and illegal gillnetting in the lake. My project focuses on trying to determine the diet composition of taimen, a large fish, and piecing together some of the food web in the river ecosystem.
After a very long flight to the other side of the world, we spent our first two days in the capital, Ulaanbataar, learning as much as we could about the history, culture and customs of Mongolia, picking up some key phrases in Mongolian we might need along the way, and gathering the necessary supplies for the first half of the expedition. We then met up with the six Mongolians accompanying us and embarked on a two-day van ride out to our field station on the Uur River. We spent ten days living in traditional gers (you might know them as yurts) at the river site, dividing our time between fishing (for both work and pleasure), monitoring fish respiration trials, collecting various plant and aquatic insect samples, eating lots of sheep, and getting to know our new Mongolian friends. After finishing our work at the river, we piled back into the vans to drive to our next stop at Lake Hovsgol, the seventeenth largest lake in the world (with a brief, glorious stop at a hotel with a hot shower and Internet access along the way). We spent the next ten days traveling around the lake on one of its few boats, pulling up to a new campsite each night where we could set our nets out, collect our samples in the morning, then motor up to the next site in the afternoon. Upon coming full circle around the lake, it was time to make the long drive back to Ulaanbataar and prepare for a bittersweet flight back to America.
The trip was a phenomenal learning experience in every sense. As a student, I learned all sorts of new techniques that are fairly standard in the field of fisheries biology, which I will undoubtedly use again at some point in the future. Just yesterday, in fact, thinking about one of the projects from this trip gave me some great inspiration for my honors thesis! As a traveling scientist, I gained invaluable experience in dealing with the challenges of working in a remote location as opposed to a laboratory with all the standard amenities. Both scientifically and otherwise, Mongolians and Americans alike were constantly learning new things from each other, whether it was a useful way to store samples, a new phrase in English (or Mongolian), or what exactly was that nondescript sheep organ sitting on the dinner table. And as people, we learned a lot about each other, and just as much about ourselves.
Something about sitting on the beach at camp, looking out at the mountains along the Russian border, left me completely amazed that I had somehow had the good fortune to land a paid research job on the other side of the world in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. Doing the things I love, with a group of wonderful people, in such an amazing place—what more could I ask for? I just want you to know how truly grateful I am for all your help in letting me get there. I regret absolutely nothing about my time in the Land of the Blue Sky, and if given the chance, I’d obviously go back in an instant. Thank you again, both for this and for all you do to help people like me have these amazing experiences.