Successful First Year of Sea Grant Scholars Program Culminates with Summer Internships

By Shari Halik
July 28, 2022

A productive first year for the Lake Champlain Sea Grant Scholars Program at the University of Vermont (UVM) has propelled the program off to a successful start. Eight Scholars from three schools and colleges across campus participated in a variety of professional development activities on the Vermont and New York sides of Lake Champlain. Scholars are enrolled in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, College of Arts and Sciences, and College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences at UVM.

“It has been an eye-opening experience with lots of hands-on activities and learning opportunities,” said Scholar Jolie Scott, an Environmental Sciences student in the Rubenstein School, who interned with the Composting Association of Vermont for the summer. “I feel encouraged as a student to become further involved in my interests and am happy to have been a part of this program.”

As part of her internship, Scott is particularly interested in a project titled “On-Farm Community-Oriented Food Scrap and Agricultural Organic Waste Management in Vermont and New Hampshire.” She is learning to create video case studies with partnering farmers.

Just like Scott, each Scholar is participating in a paid internship related to their major and career interest. Several students found their own internships, but the coordinators of the Sea Grant Scholar program also helped Scholars secure positions in Vermont or farther afield.

Mariah Choiniere, a Forestry student and national Truman Scholar in the Rubenstein School, interned with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Williston, Vermont.

"The Sea Grant Scholar Program has been a unique opportunity to learn more about water quality issues that affect Lake Champlain,” said Choiniere. “The program has offered valuable mentorship, educational trips, and access to an entire community of environmental professionals.”

Former UVM Postdoctoral Associate Paliza Shrestha and Extension Associate Professor Kris Stepenuck, Associate Director of Lake Champlain Sea Grant, organized and led professional development excursions. The Scholars visited the Green Mountain Compost and Materials Recovery Center in Williston, Vermont; the UVM Horticulture Research and Education Center; and Burlington, Vermont's green stormwater infrastructure sites and wastewater treatment plant. They toured Lake Champlain onboard the UVM research vessel and visited Lake George in New York.

“My favorite trip was when we went to Lake George and learned about its watershed management strategies,” said Rubenstein School student Maxine Asmussen, who is majoring in Environmental Sciences. “This field trip, in particular, sparked my interest in watersheds and made me want to learn more about Lake Champlain.”

Inspired by this trip, Asmussen has interned with Lake Champlain Sea Grant this summer. She is educating the public about the lake’s watershed and the challenges it faces.

During the tours and trips, the Scholars met with experts who broadened their perspectives about career possibilities in environmental fields.

“The program connected me to people who share the same interests and passions about the environment and sustainability,” said James Cairn. An Environmental Engineering major, Cairn interned this summer at Stangl Associates a construction engineering firm that focuses on plant design and computer modeling projects.

Scholar Margaret Poliferone, a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, has interned with Rubenstein School Assistant Professor Mindy Morales-Williams and is conducting an independent project on algae community dynamics in Vermont’s Lake Carmi.

"Being a Sea Grant Scholar has been an awesome experience to get insight on the environmental field and water quality, “said Poliferone, whose internship will provide her with valuable career experience. A Biological Sciences major, she hopes to pursue marine biology or science.

Scholar Paige Carpenter said, "Being in an environment where you have advisors and peers cheering you on has been rewarding, as it pushed me to seek out new experiences for my summer internship." An Environmental Studies student in the Rubenstein School, Carpenter is gaining hands-on experience while studying dolphin acoustics on the Caribbean Coast, following lab research she worked on during spring semester. 

Ishan Maratha, an Environmental Studies student in the College of Arts and Sciences is interning this summer with PennFuture, a nonprofit that works in Pennsylvania to transition the state to a clean energy economy. He is conducting research and outreach with local communities.

“I am thankful to Sea Grant, in particular Kris and Paliza, for such a wonderful and positive experience that has left me more confident and inspired for what is to come,” said Maratha. “I feel better equipped with the knowledge and general know-how needed to pursue a career.”

“It has been a pleasure from a personal and professional perspective to get to know the Scholars over the past year and to see them shine as they have shared aspects of their internship experiences with me,” said Stepenuck. “I am excited to see where their careers take them following their time at UVM.”

Learn more about the 2021 Lake Champlain Sea Grant Scholars.