Our program fosters collaboration and mutual support. Cohorts of students, between four and eight per year, form lasting professional relationships and personal friendships, and they learn at least as much from each other as they do from their professors. Although students often work alone in remote places for their graduate research, they learn and socialize together during the academic year.
Grace made her first ascent of Maine's tallest mountain just before leaving her home state for college. The tableland of Mt. Katahdin stretched before her, glinting with a hundred strange botanical jewels. Sensing that the place was special but unable to say why, she vowed to find the words to tell the story of that island of alpine tundra.
She went on to study botany at Connecticut College. Then, with chainsaw in hand and 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 to track wolves on skis across Wyoming's jagged, snowy ranges. Now 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 she 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 grew up learning about plants and birds at the heel of his father in the woods of Wisconsin. 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 he 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, he 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, he is grateful to be learning to care for what he loves most: the natural world.
Watching the mayflies hatch in Kentucky Lake was always Meredith's favorite part of summer. Not only are the abundant larvae 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, she 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, she 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.
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, she 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 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.
Now as a graduate student in the field, 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.