Delaware Chapter Intern Hilary Sullivan’s first days in the real world have gone to the birds and it isn’t because of the economic climate. During 2012, the recent graduate in Biology and Environmental Studies from Warren Wilson College is pursuing “A Big Year” – an informal birding competition that involves traveling the lower 48 states to see and hear the most bird species.
Without a doubt, Sullivan will have Delaware’s resident and visiting birds covered since a portion of her internship, which is funded by the Conservancy’s GLOBE (Growing Leaders on Behalf of the Environment) Program, involves maintaining and restoring natural areas at the Conservancy’s Ponders Tract and Edward H. McCabe and Milford Neck preserves.
“Typical of many good field biologists, Hilary has excellent skills in bird and plant identification, and an amazing ability to recognize Delaware’s numerous species of dragonflies and damselflies,” says the Conservancy’s Delaware land steward John Graham. “These skills are critical to assessing habitat quality and to providing information about what is going on with our preserves.”
Raised as a self-described “inside person,” the Wilmington native didn’t discover the outdoors until signing up for an outdoor adventure camp as a teenager. Hooked after backpacking around the northeast, she went on to lead her high school’s ecology club and participated in an enviro-thon where identifying bird calls led to her true passion.
"I'm also learning about the Conservancy’s protection work, one of the primary reasons I applied for the internship," says Sullivan. This includes collecting data, monitoring and reporting on conservation easements the Conservancy legally oversees throughout the state.
Since an internship with the Conservancy’s Delaware chapter isn’t complete without pulling a few weeds, Hilary has also quickly learned to delineate between native versus invasive vegetation. And of course there is a project involving birds. (She is really into birds.)
All of it brings her one step closer to a career in nature, for which her colleague and stewardship mentor John Graham believes she is well suited. “The learning is a two-way street with college interns. Our staff will learn a lot from Hilary and we hope to send her away with both the indoor and outdoor tools required for a successful future in conservation.”