Holt Research Forest Summer 2021 Research Team (left to right): Andrew, Noah, Gia, and Jack.

Each summer at the Holt Research Forest, Maine TREE funds an internship program through its research partnership with the University of Maine. This program allows enthusiastic research interns to develop valuable hands-on skills in the woods, experience what it means to be a forest researcher, and gain knowledge about the variety of Green Jobs that uphold the future of Maine’s forest sector. Under the guidance of Associate Scientist Jack Witham, their hard work is essential to the continuing success and development of Holt’s long-term ecosystem research projects. The Maine TREE Programs and Outreach Coordinator, Kelly French, recently stepped into the field and spoke with this year’s interns, Andrew Kooken, Gia Francis, and Noah Smith, about their experiences at Holt.

Andrew is a sophomore at The University of Maine at Fort Kent, working towards a degree in forest science. He initially heard about the opportunity at Holt Research Forest from the University of Maine Associate Professor of Silviculture, Dr. Nicole Rodgers. “I used to work the overnight shift at a factory,” Andrew told Kelly, and that he was very excited at the idea of being able to spend his summer outdoors.  His favorite part of interning at the Holt Research Forest is “finding the little things you wouldn’t normally see” if you were merely walking through the forest, including interesting species of plants, trees, and animals. Andrew plans to pursue a career with the US Forest Service and hopes to stay local to the Northeast by working in the White Mountain National Forest.

Gia also attends The University of Maine at Fort Kent and is a rising sophomore and was happy to learn about this internship program from Dr. Neil Thompson, the academic advisor for all first-year forestry students. Gia, a 1st generation college student, said she was very determined to pursue a degree in natural resources to open doors to a career in a field that she truly loves. She is studying conservation law enforcement, with a concentration in natural resources. Gia aspires to be a forest ranger or a game warden in the future. When asked what her favorite aspect of working at Holt Research Forest is, Gia mentioned that plant identification had kept them endlessly entertained. “We have a plant ID app, so we all just take out our phones when we find things we’re unfamiliar with. I have learned so much by interacting with nature, and I feel much more prepared for my dendrology class I will be taking in the fall,” Gia stated.

Noah hails from New Jersey, attending Stockton University as a senior. His concentration is environmental science, with a concentration in forest management. When Kelly asked him what inspired him to spend his summer at the Holt Research Forest, Noah stated that he “loves to work outside whenever possible” and greatly prefers working in the woods over his old summer job as a roofer. He learned about the internship program through Dr. Matthew Olson, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at Stockton, who got to know Jack during his days at the University of Maine. Noah particularly enjoys contributing to the long-term studies at Holt Research Forest. He plans to pursue a career with the New Jersey Forest Service after graduation.

This summer, Jack, Andrew, Gia, and Noah worked diligently on many different projects, with additional support provided by part-time volunteer Emma Nickerson from the University of Maine. The projects of focus this year included forest inventorying, monitoring species changes, assessing tree regeneration, repairing damaged seed traps, and reestablishing quadrant boundaries. Furthermore, the interns recently worked on installing fencing that will serve as deer exclosures to study the impacts of deer browse on regeneration. Thank you to all members of the hardworking research team at Holt Research Forest for all of your efforts this summer.

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