Team AI (Class of 2019)
- 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 rock and pine. 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.
- Jason Mazurowski
One evening, while conversing with a barred owl in a black spruce swamp, I turned off my headlamp to try and call the raptor closer. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I noticed a faint green glow on the side of the trail — my first and only encounter with bioluminescent fungus. This was an important lesson on how to view the world as a naturalist. If I had left my headlamp on, I would have never seen it.
Before I could talk to owls, I learned to read rocks. Graduating from SUNY Buffalo with a B.S. in Geology and a B.A. in Environmental Studies, I left the rust belt for the Sangre de Cristos of northern New Mexico. Over the course of five summers, I dragged hundreds of teenagers into the mountains to meet marmots and smell ponderosa pines. I sent each of them home with crumpled, soggy copies of Aldo Leopold’s essay Thinking Like a Mountain.
I spent a fall season as a naturalist in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, teaching weary hikers about bogs and boreal forests. The following winter, I pursued my newfound fixation with the north woods working as a dogsled musher in the Boundary Waters. For the past couple of years, I’ve been working with native plants in southwest Montana, where I have become accustomed to long trail runs with a hand lens and a field guide.
There are stories to tell, from the mundane to the fascinating: a fly dissolving into the leaf of a sundew, wolves stalking an elk, yeast bubbling away in a fermenter. As a field naturalist I want to learn how to share these stories in compelling ways. While I’m here, maybe I’ll have a chance to catch up with that barred owl; we never did finish our conversation.
- Carolyn Loeb
When I was eight years old, my sister and I invented a language made up of claps. We employed this private communication system almost every night to play together when we should have been asleep. Around the same time, I began to listen to the sounds of spring peepers, and to wonder what they were saying. These early discoveries were two of many that eventually led me to believe that to understand the world, I would have to learn its languages – both human and ecological.
Since that time, my thirst for knowledge has taken me to far-flung places. I have bushwhacked through the forests of Panama in search of poison frogs, wrangled sheep in dew-laden Vermont pastures, and immersed myself – literally – in freshwater mussel research in Minnesota. I have walked barefoot through cold rivers of the Sierra to help middle school students ground their study of water in place, and used soccer as a conversational tool to teach English. I’ve lost my heart to various homes in the U.S., including Yosemite, Acadia, and Glacier National Parks. After living abroad in Dakar, Senegal; Sszékesfehérvár, Hungary; Frutillar, Chile; and Cayenne, French Guiana, I also think of myself as a global citizen. My native region of New England is, however, my first love.
Languages exist because of the fundamental interconnectedness of all living things. As a Field Naturalist, my goal is to better understand these “webs of life” and the consequences of disrupting them. Ultimately, I plan to use my skills to contribute to holistic resource conservation, engage in innovative land management planning, and connect other people to nature’s many voices.
- Christian Schorn
I can’t say I was much of an outdoorsy kid growing up. Science fiction held a much greater sway over my life than science did, and I spent much of my childhood immersed in other dimensions, or daydreaming up new ones. I filled my mind with categorized trivia and minutia from my favorite universes — the evolutionary lineages of Pokemon, the landscapes of Middle-Earth, the biodiversity of Star Wars. More outer space than out-of-doors.
As an undergraduate at Connecticut College, I voyaged into a new dimension: botany. As I learned to name the plants of the woodlands and wetlands around me, I began to catch glimpses of a deeper, older, and richer world. My trivia-fed brain was drawn to the elegance in plant systematics and the epic in natural history as I studied, hiked, and explored the New England landscape. It was a real world, a fantastic world, but an imperiled one — one that needed stewards and advocates. I fed my botanical appetite as I delved into molecular study as a plant science intern at the New York Botanical Garden, weeded greenhouse beds at the Connecticut College Arboretum, digitized tens of thousands of historic New England botanical specimens for the Harvard University Herbaria, and coordinated rare and endangered plant surveys for the New England Wild Flower Society.
I’m here in Vermont as a continuation of this journey, from orcs to orchids, to dedicate my life to the study of natural history and the conservation of plant life. Whether my thirteen-year-old self likes it or not, I’m (probably) not going into outer space any time soon, but I’m not bored with this world — every day in the field is a chance to explore the universe (of a black spruce bog), defend a kingdom (of plants), or just read a new story.
Team AJ (Class of 2020)
- Grace Glynn
Grace made her first ascent of Maine's tallest mountain just before leaving her home state for college. The tableland of Mt. Katahdin stretched out before her, glinting with a hundred strange botanical jewels. Sensing that the place was special, but unable to say why, Grace vowed to find the words to tell the story of that island of alpine tundra.
Grace went on to study botany at Connecticut College. Then, with chainsaw in hand and a head full of jumbled Latin binomials, she returned to Katahdin to work on a trail crew, constructing bridges and fences to keep hikers from trampling the fragile mountaintop. She carried a wooden rocking chair to a backcountry campsite on the Appalachian Trail, where she lived alone as a caretaker and led plant walks above tree-line. On the tops of mountains she discovered the joys of teaching people about life underfoot. She left Maine on skis to track wolves across Wyoming's jagged, snowy ranges. Now, as a Field Naturalist, she returns to the familiar plants and places of the northeast.
Grace thinks life is richer when we feel a deep connection to our home places, when we know the things that live there too and call on them like neighbors. She likes to tell stories through music and maintains a repertoire of old logging camp songs and murder ballads. And every now and again Grace climbs up to the comfort of Katahdin's tableland. The tundra plants wave their low arms wildly in the chilly wind and she waves back, greeting each of them by name.
- Eric Hagen
Eric grew up learning about plants and birds at the heel of his father in the woods of Wisconsin. At 18 he left for Massachusetts to study ecology at Williams College, and nurtured his love for botany in the Taconic mountains and Berkshire hills. After graduation Eric switched paths for four years, pursuing interests in agriculture and carpentry. In southwestern Massachusetts he worked as a livestock apprentice: milking cows, making hay, processing chickens and managing the farm's pigs. After finishing his apprenticeship, he travelled for four months in Peru, where he bought a donkey named Maria. Together they walked ancient footpaths without a map or timeline. Returning to the states, Eric learned carpentry on a construction crew and raised pigs, selling them to friends and neighbors.
Eric has learned a lot over the years. As a child he learned about steadfast care. In farming he learned about the cycles of life and death. In travel he learned how to make neighbors out of strangers, and in carpentry he learned the price of sweat and the satisfaction of craftsmanship. Here in Vermont, Eric is grateful to be learning to care for what he loves most: the natural world.
- Meredith Naughton
Watching the mayflies hatch in Kentucky Lake was always Meredith's favorite part of summer. Not only are the abundant larva excellent fishing bait, their delicate bodies and adventurous lifecycle delighted her curiosity. Growing up among the agricultural fields and suburbs of Indiana, Meredith found wildness in life underwater. In the water, the world moves a little slower and the neighbors are even more peculiar.
Since the summers observing mayflies, Meredith has always found complexity and adventure in the minute. With her head down in a stream, a vernal pool, or a patch of grass, Meredith has spent many happy hours inspecting what others step over. She has analyzed ant genetics, catalogued guppies, sorted aquatic insects, and led hand-lens safaris from the tropics to Vermont.
Her most recent exploration of detail came while working as a carpenter, which combined her love for consuming physical work, challenging problem solving, and tangible results. At UVM Meredith is learning to better understand people and the environment, hoping to collaborate with both. Ultimately, Meredith keeps looking to the natural world because of the enchantment and comfort she finds in its complexity. She wants to make sure that the details are always there for others to find their own mayfly moment, and hopes eventually the natural world can have a greater impact on us than we do on it.
Last modified September 26 2018 07:00 AM