Students representing three environmental high schools in New York City will have the opportunity to broaden their ecological horizons through research and study on the world’s largest campus thanks to a collaborative venture between Berry College and The Nature Conservancy. The three students, who will be on campus July 27-Aug. 4, are participants in Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF), a paid internship program operated by The Nature Conservancy that provides opportunities for urban students to learn in diverse ecosystems.
LEAF students are active in 11 states this summer. Projects range from trailblazing to invasive species removal. Thanks to a generous grant from the Toyota USA Foundation, this is the first time the program has been able to bring students to Georgia.
The LEAF students who will visit Berry have been in Georgia since July 12. Previous activities include barrier island restoration on Little St. Simons Island and preserve management in Moody Forest.
“We have three urban young women working across Georgia,” said Shelly Lakly, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Georgia. “We are so excited to be a part of this program that is growing the next generation of conservation leaders.”
As part of their Berry experience, the LEAF students will have the opportunity to make their own unique contributions to two long-term research initiatives aimed at restoring longleaf pine trees and American chestnuts to Southeastern forests.
The Longleaf Pine Project has been flourished for nearly a decade, during which time 43,000 seedlings have been planted in specific areas on Berry’s expansive 26,000-acre campus. These great trees once covered as many as 90 million acres from Virginia to Texas, but less than three percent of the rapidly disappearing longleaf pine forests still exist today.
More recently, the college partnered with the American Chestnut Foundation to establish a “backcross” orchard of chestnut trees bred to resist the devastating blight fungus that nearly wiped out the species. This orchard is part of a national effort to restore the population of what was once one of the largest and most abundant trees in eastern North America.
“Berry College is a great place to show the diversity of the natural systems of Georgia and provide a collegiate experience for these students,” Lakly said.
Overseeing Berry’s participation in the LEAF Program is Dr. Martin Cipollini, professor of biology and director of both the longleaf pine and chestnut projects. Also assisting will be a trio of Berry students who will mentor the LEAF participants. Activities will include a tour of the campus, maintenance on the longleaf pine trail and in the chestnut orchard, and site preparation for an upcoming pine burn.
“We are very excited to be a part of the LEAF Program,” Dr. Cipollini said. “We hope this will lead to a long-term relationship with The Nature Conservancy.”
Visit www.nature.org/leaf to learn more about the LEAF Program.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.