2022 Internship wrap-up

2022 Internship wrap-up

Above: Gunnar learned how to operate a tractor during his time with Coastal Rivers. Here he helps install conduit for the new charging station at Round Top Farm.

Celebrating the newest members of the conservation workforce

Coastal Rivers was fortunate to host not one but two interns in 2022: Stewardship and Facilities Intern Gunnar Nurme and Education Intern Abigail Van Slyke. It is always exciting to welcome new people onto our team, and the energy these young people brought was tangible.

Under the supervision of Director of Education and Community Science Sarah Gladu, Abigail headed up the Courtesy Boat Inspection program at the Pemaquid Pond boat landing as well as education programming at Beachcombers’ Rest Nature Center (BRNC) at Pemaquid Beach Park.

Abigail Van Slyke

Abigail on board the River Tripper in July

Abigail has a very interesting background, with a degree in International Trade and Marketing from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She has studied fashion marketing in Italy and completed a French language intensive in Paris at La Sorbonne. While on paper she might not appear to be a likely candidate for a conservation organization, we are thankful she convinced us otherwise in her interview.

At BRNC, Abigail developed new interpretive displays and interactive activities for visitors. She successfully navigated some logistical challenges to bring back the popular touch tank which had not been active since 2019. She also orchestrated well-received programs such as a Wabanaki drumming performance in July.

From June into August, four mornings a week were spent conducting Courtesy Boat Inspections: educating boaters about the dangers of invasive aquatic plants and, with permission, inspecting boats at Pemaquid Boat Launch and occasionally at Biscay Beach. Abigail also helped out at Camp Mummichog.

“Abigail really shone when she was working with children,” Sarah observed. “She did a great job of engaging kids and fed off their energy as they made discoveries.”

Abigail left us in late August to return to New York before spending some time traveling this fall.

A 2021 graduate of St. Lawrence University with degrees in Environmental Studies, Economics and Business, Gunnar Nurme is a quick study who is eager to learn about all aspects of land conservation. He approaches every task and project with a cheerful attitude, works hard, and follows through with efficiency and competence.

Under the supervision of Trails and Facilities Manager Jim Grenier and Stewardship Director Brad Weigel, Gunnar helped design and implement field management plans at Salt Bay Farm and Whaleback Shell Midden State Historic Site. He conducted surveys of trails and trailheads and took an active role with a major project to re-route and rebuild the bog bridging across the salt marsh at Glidden Point Preserve in Newcastle. Among many other projects, he helped coordinate the Damariscotta River clean-up in October and worked alongside Jim, Brad, and volunteers on a major property cleanup in Bristol.

Coastal Rivers internships are paid, and we are now in a position to be able to provide good housing for our interns, thanks to the generous gift of a house in Newcastle that was part of the estate of Ken Schaller. Affordable housing in this area is very hard to come by and having a place to offer helps us attract strong candidates.

In addition to wages and housing, Coastal Rivers interns benefit from a deep dive into the world of non-profit conservation work. They attend team meetings and events, take on projects from inception through execution and follow-up, and participate in trainings and programs. All staff members strive to involve interns in as many facets of the work as possible and truly value their engagement, creativity and ideas.

Gunnar commented, “My time with Coastal Rivers felt like so much more than an internship because from the day I started the staff treated me as a part of the family and made efforts to involve me in all of the different aspects of the organization. I also had opportunities to spearhead projects and work with a higher degree of responsibility than I believe I would in internships with other organizations.”

When asked what some highlights of his time at Coastal Rivers have been, he responded quickly with this list:

  • Getting to work on a wide variety of projects, almost every day has been different.
  • Spending a lot of time outside and getting to visit all of Coastal Rivers’ beautiful preserves.
  • Gaining experience and insight into all aspects of how a land trust operates. While most of my time was spent out in the field focusing on stewardship work, I also was able to learn about the land acquisition process, attend board meetings, help out with a bit of communications/outreach work, and more.
  • Working frequently with volunteers and developing connections with them.

His last day with us was on December 8, and we will miss him greatly as he heads off to his winter job at a ski resort in Utah. The happy news is that he will be returning to us in March as our Lands and Stewardship Coordinator!

Gunnar and Abigail laughing

Gunnar and Abigail share a laugh at the July Membership Celebration.