The Nature Conservancy Begins Paid Summer Internships for Urban Youth in Prospect Park

Planning the future of the planet starts today

New York, NY | July 08, 2014

The Nature Conservancy, the world’s leading conservation organization, is proud to announce today that for the first time ever students from its national Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) Program will be doing paid tree stewardship internships in and around Brooklyn’s Prospect Park as part of the Conservancy’s new “Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities” initiative. The students began their field training yesterday, Monday, July 7, and will continue to work through Friday, August 22.

Founded in New York City in 1995, the LEAF Program provides paid summer internships for students on nature preserves across the country and helps educators from environmental high schools share best practices and scientific resources during the academic year. This is the 20th year of the LEAF Program, whose mission is to engage urban youth in conservation activities now so that they will become stewards for our planet tomorrow. Since its inception, LEAF has expanded from one to 27 participating states, and over 700 interns have participated. 

“The main goal of the LEAF Program is to expose urban youth to nature and conservation careers at a young age to nurture a passion for the environment which will stick with them both personally and professionally for the rest of their lives,” says Brigitte Griswold, Director of Youth Programs for The Nature Conservancy. “Providing students with the opportunity to participate in actual conservation projects in natural areas is a great complement to their environmental classroom learning and gives them hands-on experience they may not otherwise get during the school year.”

The LEAF Program’s summer internships in Prospect Park will bring together four LEAF alumni, who are all now in college, to survey, monitor and document tree health and the potential presence of non-native invasive insect species, such as the emerald ash borer (EAB) and the Asian long-horned beetle (ALB), throughout the park.

“We are very exited to have the LEAF students working as part of our Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities program in New York City, which is being conducted in partnership with New York City Parks and the U. S. Forest Service (USFS),” says Bill Toomey, Director of the Conservancy’s Forest Health Program. “The LEAF students will be conducting critical tree health monitoring and survey work over the course of the summer.”

“This project is important for Prospect Park and for all of New York City’s Parks,” says Bram Gunther, NYC Parks Chief of Forestry, Horticulture and Natural Resources. “Invasive species can pose a threat to our tree canopy and the work that the interns are doing will benefit all of our communities in the five boroughs and will add to the health of our trees. We are thrilled to have the LEAF program’s interns doing such important work in our park, and look forward to working with them and seeing them grow over the next two months.”

During their training, the LEAF interns will have the unique opportunity to learn from conservation professionals from the Conservancy and partners like Yale University’s School of Forestry, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and a lead forest ecology researcher with the USFS.

“The LEAF interns will be trained in methods of tree and forest health assessment that will help with earlier detection of insect infestations such as EAB and ALB,” says Rich Hallett, Research Ecologist for the USDA Forest Service, NYC Urban Field Station. “The knowledge and skills the interns gain throughout the summer will be useful for careers in science, conservation and tree stewardship around the country. In addition this experience will open their eyes to career possibilities, helping to generate the next generation of conservation leaders.”

The continued expansion of the LEAF program nationwide is due to leading support from the Toyota USA Foundation. The Prospect Park LEAF projects have been made possible in part through the generous support from the National Park Foundation and the United States Forest Service.

Learn more about the LEAF program and its students, supporters and alumni at

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.

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