Gaining Hands-on Conservation Experience After College Graduation
As a 2010 graduate of the University of Delaware, Leatitia Bedminster had her sights set on an advanced degree. While exploring that path, she sought out opportunities that would give her practical experience related to her environmental science major. She found that with the Student Conservation Association, which matches college and graduate students with resource management professionals working in a variety of disciplines to protect the nation’s natural and cultural treasures.
The Student Conservation Association assessed Leatitia’s skill sets and interests and matched her with The Nature Conservancy of Delaware, just down the road from her alma mater. A generous grant from the Mazda Foundation covered the internship expenses so that her services would be provided at no cost to the Conservancy. Leatitia was set to spend the fall after graduation learning about the conservation business – and a lot about herself as well.
“I spent my entire life in Delaware but never knew what existed beyond the trees I passed along the highway on my way to the beach,” says Bedminster. “While my interests lie with ocean conservation, I enjoyed discovering and studying the state’s rich forests and marshlands and their connection with the coast.”
One of Leatitia’s first tasks as an intern included assisting with the annual monitoring of the Conservancy’s nine conservation easements, a practice she hadn’t come across in her academic studies. Together with John Graham, the chapter’s Land Steward, Leatitia visited each property and collected data needed to help the chapter assess whether each easement continued to be managed in line with the terms of their legally-binding agreement.
“Leatitia proved adept at using state-of-the-art GPS equipment to collect a variety of data in this important field work,” says Graham. “She conducted virtually all the GPS work and got it perfect!”
At the Edward H. McCabe preserve, where portions of trails had become unrecognizable due to last year’s winter snow storms, Leatitia put the high tech equipment away and got her hands dirty. During her days in these locations, she cleared tangles of broken trees in order to find and re-mark original trails.
“Leatitia had a good eye for finding places for trail signs – a true talent since it requires anticipating where hikers will need signage to find their way,” says Graham.
When not out at the Conservancy’s nature preserves, Leatitia served as an asset to the chapter’s other functions, finding images for marketing materials, staffing community events like the Blackbird Creek Festival, organizing the chapter’s equipment barn and even collecting pounds of acorns for an environmental education activity.
Adds Graham, “Together, we accomplished a lot in a very short time. We were glad to have Leatitia help us out and hope she visits often.”