BAR HARBOR — A couple of College of the Atlantic students have been getting an up-close, behind-the-scenes look at Acadia National Park and Schoodic Institute this summer as part of the College’s new Acadia Scholars Program.
Noah Rosenberg ’18 and Gemma Venuti ’18 spent their summer breaks as interns in communications and invasive plants management, respectively, gaining vital, on-the-job experience in fields they intend to pursue after graduation.
“I’ve always heard about how difficult it is to get a job, or internship, or anything with the park, so, this has been so incredible,” Venuti said. “It’s certainly hard work, but it’s valuable, it’s amazing, and I feel good doing it, because what we’re doing is helping the national park visitor experience.”
The Acadia Scholars Program places students like Venuti and Rosenberg in areas such as natural resource management, interpretation and communicating science, in both Acadia and Schoodic. The program is underwritten by a two-year, $30,000 grant from the Endeavor Foundation. The Davis Conservation Foundation provided seed funding for the project in 2016.
“The people who work for Acadia and Schoodic Institute are so dedicated and knowledgeable; they’re just an inspiring group to learn from,” said COA Professor Ken Cline. They care deeply about what they are doing and want to pass their knowledge on to the next generation. Getting a job in the conservation field is hard, and experience is really important. This is a way to give students that experience and to give them exposure in the field.”
The program builds on relationships that have been developing for many years, ANP Superintendent Kevin Schneider said.
“Acadia National Park greatly benefits from College of the Atlantic students and their perspectives on human ecology. We need their ideas, energy and solutions through the Acadia Scholars program and through their work at Schoodic Institute,” Schneider said.
Rosenberg, who is working as a communications and development assistant intern with Schoodic Institute, said that his interdisciplinary studies at COA have taught him the value of different perspectives, which has helped him with his position this summer.
“Just yesterday, I was with a group of educators, worm diggers, clammers and park scientists, and having a conversation with all of them about intertidal uses. I really understood the importance of being open to what you don’t know and really listening to people,” he said. “I might not have been able to understand all these different perspectives had I been just a biologist.”
Rosenberg worked on a number of projects as part of Schoodic’s communications office. He created videos that tell the Schoodic story, wrote stories about researchers, park personnel and local history for the organization’s email newsletter, and helped update website content.
“Schoodic Institute certainly benefited from Noah’s hard work and commitment to the institute’s mission of advancing ecosystem science and learning for all ages,” said Schoodic communications manager Sarah Brundage. “Throughout the summer, he expertly communicated intertidal and forest research in Acadia National Park through quality video, photos and written word. At the same time, Noah was given opportunities to benefit from workshops and citizen science events with specialists from across the country.”
Rosenberg has had a varied course of study at the college, embracing the learning philosophy of human ecology and focusing on areas like communications, video production and biological sciences. His work with the Schoodic Institute this summer has really helped him see that a unique course of study can be incredibly practical in the working world, he said.
“I’ve been able to apply my education in human ecology to actual scenarios and challenges,” he said. “Our mission at Schoodic is to communicate ecosystem science to the general public, and having gone through a COA education, I’ve been able to see quite clearly how to do that.”
Venuti worked this summer with the park’s exotic plants management crew, traveling over land and sea to hike through thick vegetation to measure, plot and remove invasive plants, while also doing an independent study on invasive plant seed dispersal along park roadways.
The work, she said, “is fantastic, because it’s in a beautiful place, and we’re looking at these amazing plants, and fieldwork is what I want to do.”
Venuti, who has studied geology and biology while at COA, said she learned a lot from Acadia’s exotic plant specialist and his crew.
“They’re funny and all so incredibly knowledgeable,” she said. “I’m really happy that I’ve been able to build my resume this way, but also, now when I apply to jobs, I can confidently say, ‘I’m able to do these things, and if you hire me, I can do them for you.’”
The Acadia Scholars program will select two to three students annually who will pursue internships, coursework and independent studies related to the park and resource protection. The students maintain their Acadia Scholar status till they leave COA and are likely to focus their capstone senior projects on some aspect of their work as Acadia Scholars.
“We are so pleased and grateful to be offering a program like this to our students,” said COA President Darron Collins ’92. “Acadia National Park and the Schoodic Institute attract the very highest caliber of scientists, ecologists and natural resource specialists. Placing our students in their capable hands for a summer is truly an incredible opportunity.”