Team AG (Class of 2017)
- Sonia DeYoung
In high school, I saw a documentary about Jane Goodall at the Boston Museum of Science. Halfway through I whispered to my best friend, "This is what I'm going to do with my life." I couldn't wait to get out of Massachusetts and embark on a career as a world-traveling zoologist. It might have sent me into a swoon if someone had told me that over the next decade I would chase tarsiers through the Indonesian jungle, ski after wolves in the Rockies, sketch elephant ears in the South African veldt and record bird songs in the Everglades, count bald eagles flying over the high desert of California and scan the cliffs of the Rio Grande for peregrine falcon eyries. Volunteering overseas in college led to interning with the Student Conservation Association after college. Finally the National Park Service hired me to work on the wildlife research crew at Grand Teton National Park, where I spent two of the happiest years of my life.
I always knew I wanted to return to New England, though. This leafy, rolling landscape dotted with old towns held onto my heart wherever else I went, no matter how spectacular. Somewhere along the way I also decided that as much as I love wildlife, I need to understand the big picture. Without soil, water, and plants – in short, the land – how would the animals live, after all? As I fill in these holes in my knowledge over the next two years, I hope I'll also find time to write some letters, make some crafts, and read a few novels.
- Hannah Phillips
Hannah Phillips’ world unfurled the day she first saw a topographic map. As a child, Hannah had wandered the woods of Vermont, memorizing the landmarks and undulations of the land, drafting a mental map as she walked. The topo map offered a sudden freedom to see her familiar landscape from a new perspective, revealing spatial patterns she only knew intuitively.
Throughout her life, Hannah has been drawn to experiences that shake her view of the natural world. As an undergraduate at Skidmore College, Hannah obsessed over social insects, an interest that propelled her to Costa Rica to watch the bullhorn acacia writhe with ant defenders when provoked. A devotee to experiential education, Hannah returned north for teaching opportunities in Colorado and, later, Switzerland. There, she led her classes on herpetological missions to vernal pools, tracking expeditions in the sandy washes of Utah canyons, and backyard snow-pit studies in the Alps. A scientific generalist, Hannah welcomes teaching as an opportunity to share her passion for natural places.
Now, as a student in the Ecological Planning program, Hannah is braced for another shift in perspective of topo-map magnitude. When she is not working, she is likely scaling a rock face, jumping in a cold stream, or skiing Vermont’s backcountry. If forced to sit still, she is content to knit and read books by E.O. Wilson.
- Lyra Brennan
Lyra is named after a constellation shaped like a lyre. The myth says that Apollo gave his son Orpheus the lyre, and Orpheus played it to charm the beasts, the rocks, and the trees. It turns out that the beasts, the rocks, and the trees charm Lyra, rather than the other way around. Lyra spent her childhood on the coast of Maine and in the mountains of New Hampshire, so she can’t go very long without diving into cold water or starting up a trailhead.
Lyra worked as an outdoor adventure guide, taking high-school students sea kayaking and seal-spotting in Maine, rock climbing and copperhead-dodging in Shenandoah Valley, and on other expeditions along the eastern seaboard. When she wasn’t guiding, Lyra worked in theater, and eventually wrote and directed a play called “Coyote and Start Again,” which went up Off-Broadway in New York City.
Shortly after her undergraduate years, she curved her work towards research, conservation, and wildlife management. She has studied the effects of climate change on marine life, and monitored and managed endangered shorebirds with Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program. Lyra was also a conservation fellow at Mass Audubon, focusing on policy and education concerning critical habitats. While studying the behavior and biology of Piping Plovers, Least Terns, and American Oystercatchers, it became abundantly clear to Lyra that much like the invisible shapes of constellations, everything is connected.
- Julia Runcie
I’ve always struggled with a passionate attachment to place. As a kid wandering in the Vermont woods I would throw my arms around this tree or that, thinking that I could never bear to leave them, that I would die if they were cut down. Yet I did leave, transplanting myself in places as far-flung as Boston, Rome, and Senegal. Each time, no matter how foreign the soil, my roots reached for purchase and took hold. Most recently I was infatuated with California’s Eastern Sierra. I loved the hot springs and the granite canyons, the indigo bush blooming on the volcanic tablelands, the red-shouldered hawk that roosted in my neighbor’s cottonwood tree. The day I drove away I felt a physical pain. Wendell Berry speaks of “the intimacy the mind makes with the place it awakens in,” but he suggests no method of surviving intimacy after intimacy in place after place.
The best coping mechanism I’ve discovered is conservation work. Knowing a landscape gives you insight into the problems it faces, and a reason to seek solutions. I explored California first as a canoe guide on a shrinking saline lake, then as a crusader uprooting invasive weeds along stream banks. For four years I tracked endangered bighorn sheep throughout a two-hundred-mile stretch of the Sierra Nevada. Yet I found more questions in the mountains than I could answer by climbing them, and I’ve turned to the Ecological Planning program to learn how conservation can amplify and clarify the concept of home. Equipped with a hunting license, a ski pass, and a pair of binoculars, I also hope to rekindle my connection with Vermont, the first place where my mind awakened.
- Sean Beckett
At 4:30 AM somewhere in Costa Rica’s rainforest, a teenage Sean was begrudgingly dragged by the socks from a peaceful slumber in an airy bungalow into the pre-dawn hum of the jungle. After a certain amount of vicious protest, the leader of this naturalist group turned and said “close your mouth and open your ears!” The dawn chorus of a hundred tropical songbirds soaked the air. Dozens of emerald, sapphire, and golden birds dripped from the branches and Sean was transfixed. Upon return to his homeland, Vermont, Sean discovered the forests here were also filled with treasures. Scarlet tanagers and indigo buntings adorned trees like hidden Christmas ornaments visible only to those who sought them out.
Addicted to unearthing all this treasure, Sean went to Vassar College to study biology and environmental studies. He researched Atlantic puffins in Maine, northern saw-whet owls in Idaho, pygmy-owls in Mexico, and Clark’s nutcrackers in Wyoming. Sean soon settled in the peripheries of Yellowstone National Park and began leading natural history safaris to share the region’s wolves, bears, and eagles with inquisitive visitors and nature lovers. Each year when the ecotourism traffic in Yellowstone waned, Sean rounded up groups of the most passionate treasure hunters and traversed the frozen shores of the Hudson Bay to embrace its arctic royalty: polar bears, gyrfalcons, and arctic foxes. Hungry for more knowledge and tools, Sean is eager to spend the next two years developing his naturalist skills back home in Vermont.
- Katherine Hale
As a child, Katherine Hale believed that neither rain nor sleet nor heat nor gloom of night should get in the way of a good ramble through the abandoned fields and regenerating forests of the upper Neuse River basin in central North Carolina. Twenty years later and thousands of miles from home, this attitude continues to serve her well. She got the classical education she longed for at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, studying the Great Books of Western civilization for four years. Despite falling hard for geometry and rhetoric, she reengaged with her childhood love of “natural philosophy” and emerged dedicated to life as a naturalist-scientist-adventurer in the grand tradition of Charles Darwin and Joseph Banks.
In her first job after graduation, she measured fossil lycopsids from the Carboniferous in the inner vaults of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.; she enjoyed poking around in drawers but preferred to be out collecting in the field. Katherine has also timber framed and tracked wildlife in the woodlands of upstate New York; raised vegetables and hauled irrigation pipes in the northern California coastal fog belt; and botanized extensively throughout the Ventana Wilderness of Big Sur and Carmel Valley. A farmer and gardener by inclination and training, she loves the challenges of growing plants most people have never heard of from seed or cuttings. She's usually the last one in a hiking party because she stops so often to look at plants and draw them in her notebook. At night, meet her under the porch light and look for moths—unless it's raining, in which case she'll be out wandering.
- Ellen Gawarkiewicz
By age six, I had it figured out: I would be a naturalist in the summer and a teacher during the school year. I followed this plan throughout my teenage years and into adulthood. Along the way, I unearthed a passion for connecting people and place through sharing a sense of wonder. As I taught I learned.
The reciprocal nature of teaching led me to far-flung classrooms. In my home on the saltmarshes of Cape Cod, I taught families how to use a seine net and was overwhelmed by the bounty of estuary life. On the beaches of Madagascar, I helped village children make sense of a marine conservation NGO and learned how to make toy sail boats from plastic bags. Along a river in Maine, I connected residents of a low-income housing development, most Somali refugees, with a nearby nature preserve and learned to see ice cracks as drawings of nature. In the North Woods of Minnesota, I taught twine-making and learned to look at the world through Ojibwe stories. And in Nepal, I taught English at a small rural government school and was immersed in the community, culture, and “go slowly” lifestyle of the Himalayan foothills.
Combining my love of learning and teaching, I plan become a naturalist/environmental educator and write children's books. I enjoy invigorating my own sense of wonder by going on long wandering walks, following animal paths through the snow, kayaking through marshes, investigating the wrack line of beaches and paddling around ponds, sneaking up on unsuspecting turtles.
- Anya Tyson
Anya Tyson loves to cover ground, bag peaks, and bushwhack, especially in pursuit of birds and beasts. She first ventured into the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to chase the Clark's Nutcracker, trying to keep pace with the bird’s boisterous flights to learn as much as possible about its natural history. As the seasons changed, she skied over sagebrush and frozen lakes, connecting the dots of a wolf pack's movement across the winter landscape. Once, on a snowy afternoon, she followed fresh tracks like breadcrumbs to a tree-well that only partially concealed an adult mountain lion.
In the past two years, Anya has worked primarily with another wild animal — the adjudicated teenage boy — at a residential and wilderness therapy program in northwestern Wyoming. She led the dudes on trips past the tips of the Tetons and deep into the canyons of southern Utah, doing her best to combine therapy and botany. She enjoyed the challenge of this work and its rewards, moments when angry, foul- and loud-mouthed teens fell silent to watch Great Gray Owls hunting from fence posts behind the center. Nevertheless, birdsong, animal sign, and the lingering Latin names of plants beckoned her to a different calling, so she set her sights on the Field Naturalist program as her next summit.
She is excited about the new songbirds and hardwoods of the Green Mountain State, which she finds strangely reminiscent of her childhood home in the forests of coastal Oregon. Anya has aspirations to knit the conservation and outdoor recreation communities more closely together. She envisions well-designed citizen science projects as a means to harness the potential of other adventure-conservationists who want to save the world. Wielding an accordion, harmonica, and lots of sing-a-longs, Anya intends to somehow incorporate folk music into this campaign.
- Gabe Andrews
Water makes up about 60% of the human body; it’s in my blood and we’re not just talking physiology. As a kid, I spent countless days splashing on the shores of ponds and creeks in my backyard in Ohio. But I knew these shores had their limits; I was to be land-locked no longer. Sure, Ohio has plenty of fresh water, but nothing compares to infinite wonders of the sea.
I first became acquainted with diamondback terrapins in the Chesapeake Bay. I trudged marshes and navigated tidal currents to collect population data for these brackish turtles. On the barrier islands of Georgia, I did odd jobs for imperiled ecotherms. I rehabbed injured sea turtles and assisted in alligator surgeries. (It turns out that gators can survive shotgun wounds and tennis ball ingestion — but not without complications). Meanwhile, I’d pursue my love of eating honey, listening to bluegrass, or cooking something delectable.
My next stop was Costa Rica for my first tropical turtle season. With a combination of education and ecotourism, I partnered with locals to protect turtle nests instead of poaching them (pun certainly not intended). On my northern migration, I looked after ring-tailed lemurs, great hornbills and gopher tortoises; I even raised a few colonies of honeybees. A sense of worry wrenched in my gut as I approached Vermont and pondered the growing distance to the sea. But with the Green mountains in my rear view mirror, my apprehension quickly lifted. Lake Champlain glistened in the distance; I had found more wonder.
- Jamie Ervin
Ecological Planning and Vermont Law School
One time, when I was about 12 years old, my mom threw a newspaper at me and told me that I was only allowed to quit the soccer team if I did something else “constructive” with my time. There are some important details that I’ve left out here, but I hated competitive sports, and so I eagerly complied with her demand. This proved a blessing a few months later when I enrolled in a one-of-a-kind, outdoor adventure/service learning program called The American Adventure Service Corps (TAASC). From TAASC I learned real outdoor skills like rock climbing and backpacking, but more importantly, I became completely immersed in the beauty and complexity of my home in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains. I’ve been obsessed with mountains ever since, and when I haven’t been out climbing I’ve slowly wandered my way into the environmental field, one low-paying, temporary position at a time.
After gaining a B.S. in Environmental Studies from UNC Asheville, I spent several years of AmeriCorps service doing land protection and stewardship work with a regional land trust called Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC). At SAHC I split my time between ecological and legal work, and I could never really decide which one I liked better. Fortunately for me, UVM and Vermont Law School (VLS) host a dual program for indecisive, generalist-type people like myself. I don’t even have to live far away from the mountains. My program combines VLS’s curriculum in land use law with the core FNEP curriculum at UVM. This might seem a bit random, but I’m hoping that the combo will help me evolve into the ultimate conservation professional: one who both understands the planet’s ecosystems and knows the legal tools needed to protect them.
Team AH (Class of 2018)
- Maria Dunlavey
Maria Dunlavey grew up between two mountains on a stream called Hemlock Brook, down the road from the wood frog pond and up the trail from the clay banks. Western Massachusetts is still the landscape she knows best, but she’s found her bearings in a few others. As a geology student, she measured her way up mesas in New Mexico, mapped moraines in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, and led trips everywhere from the rim of the Grand Canyon to the floor of Death Valley. In the parched savanna of southern Kenya, she tracked a dying stream from spring to diverted spring and wondered how long its hornbills, bushbabies, and yellowbark acacias might survive their human neighbors’ struggle for a better life. As an environmental consultant in Seattle, Maria learned to view a place for its man-made story, combing through maps and old records in pursuit of polluted sites. In Montana, she searched for tiger beetles in the sandhills and pipits in the prairies, both the beneficiaries of another man-made story: that of deep-rooted ranching families and their care for the land.
Maria came to UVM to fill the gaps between these glimpses. Her passion is for the tangled tales of landscapes as a whole, in all their contradictory glory. On the trail of those stories, she’ll wade into some of the thorniest questions in conservation: What is a landscape? Where does it come from, and how does it work — and what can a Field Naturalist do to preserve it?
- Chelsea Clarke
Chelsea Clarke’s journey to the Field Naturalist Program began when she encountered a red eft while backpacking in the Green Mountains. The thrill of this discovery prompted research about efts, which took her on a detour to the FNEP website. From there Chelsea set out on yet another journey to understand and interpret the natural world.
Chelsea initially chose to pursue her love of the natural world through art. After studying printmaking at Maine College of Art she has spent the past several years roaming the country working, adventuring, and searching for ways to use her artwork to spark red-eft-like moments of excitement, discovery, and connection with the natural world for others. Her artwork fed off her experiences traveling cross-country, working on organic farms in Downeast Maine and on wildlife tours on Prince William Sound, and designing marine biology themed t-shirts in Woods Hole.
In between meeting the red eft and arriving in Vermont, Chelsea joined a scientific research cruise off Alaska. At sea she used art and writing to help translate the science, beauty, and importance of arctic plankton to audiences back on land, in hopes of making plankton a little more exciting and preserving the Arctic a little more urgent. Now Chelsea is anxious to fill in the gaps in knowledge left by her self-guided studies and continue to pursue this combination of art, science, conservation, and outreach. With a heart that has always pointed north, Vermont seems like the perfect place for this next adventure.
- Andy Wood
I've always been curious about animals, from the rowdy opossums living in my childhood bedroom ceiling to the flashy treetop warblers. Like the Northern parula, I grew up with one foot in Latin America and the other in New England. My family's irregular trans-American migrations stoked my curiosity for animals and the madcap lives they lead. In my work today, I draw on that curiosity and global perspective to guide my thinking.
Through my undergraduate hemming and hawing at Bates College I settled on the mission of making sure that wild animals and wild places don't disappear. Since then I've surveyed beaches for Piping Plover nests, dodged Least Tern poop-attacks, guided teenagers through the rivers and mountains of Maine and Quebec, chainsawed blowdowns on backwoods ski trails, and searched for salamanders with enthusiastic third-graders. All of these jobs reinforced my conviction that being able to "shoot the breeze" with other people is a critical field skill.
Here in the Field Naturalist Program, I'm seeking innovative ways to help people understand wildlife and manage land so plants and animals can thrive. In my spare time you'll find me crashing through the underbrush or looking for birds (and 'possums) in my backyard.
- Lynn Wolfe
Growing up on the rocky Maine coast, Lynn often found herself knee-deep in tide pools and almost always covered in mud. While studying ecology, Lynn realized that she could build a career where it was acceptable to almost always be covered in mud. She's never turned back.
After graduating from college, Lynn hopped on her bicycle, ready to try out the desert and cactus of the west coast in place of Maine's rocks and pines. Reaching the Pacific, she hung up her helmet and traded in her bike cleats for footing more suitable for tide-pooling. She spent a season guiding school groups as they scampered along the rocks in search of moray eels. In Arizona's scorching heat, she planted cottonwood trees along the shores of the shrinking Colorado River. In the flood plain forests of Vermont, she trudged through streams collecting seeds and cuttings for plant propagation. Her willingness to crawl through thorn-covered shrubs was required as she searched for the elusive New England cottontail rabbit along Maine's coast. Eventually, she settled at Shelburne Farms on Lake Champlain's shores, where she raised vegetables, tapped maple trees, and developed a new sense of community. As she was exposed to the natural resource field, her urge to contribute to a greater conservation initiative grew.
As a graduate student in the Ecological Planning program, she's got her hand lens and binoculars ready to examine the flora and fauna of Vermont. And if she gets a little muddy along the way, so be it.
- Lauren Sopher
Ink and dirt have covered Lauren's hands since she was a child. Sitting at the kitchen table, markers strewn, and traipsing through Vermont's landscape, wildflowers in hand, were a classic pairing. Art and nature kindled her sense of wonder and connection to place. Lauren studied art, design, and environmental science so that she could explore the intricacies of nature from multiple perspectives: illustration, psychology, graphic design, and conservation biology.
Lauren stumbled upon welwitschia, a peculiar plant endemic to the Namib Desert, while tracking black rhinos in Namibia. She fell for plants during this study abroad experience and was catapulted into a fervent pursuit of knowledge on the topic. Lauren was also introduced to and fascinated by the country's community-based approach to conservation.
With the Green Mountains beckoning, Lauren found a way to overlap her worlds in Vermont. She hovered over botanical books and dried plant specimens at The Pringle Herbarium, and illustrated, designed, and wrote for Vermont Harvest of the Month (HOM), a statewide program connecting classrooms, cafeterias, and communities to local food. Lauren moved to the Northeast Kingdom, where she focused her lens on food access as an AmeriCorps member; she coordinated HOM, and spent time gardening and cooking with kids.
Yearning to make personal relationships central to her workday, she changed professions: supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorders to access their community, build meaningful social connections, and live as independently as possible. Lauren seeks to exchange place-based knowledge of the landscape with the general public, in formats that are accessible, creative, and collaborative. She will likely be singing while doing this.
Last modified September 16 2016 08:59 AM