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>  News Releases >   2003 >   August

Natural connections

Posted 08/13/03, by Susan Knapp

Student maps wildlife patterns for local nonprofit

Quinn Thomas '05 paddles to his summer internship every day. He helps the Upper Valley Land Trust with a natural resources inventory at two locations. (photo by Joe Mehling '69)

Dartmouth's legacy of connecting students, faculty and staff with the natural resources of northern New England is being fueled this summer by R. Quinn Thomas '05, from Wilmington, N.C. Thomas is upholding Dartmouth's environmental traditions through an internship with the Upper Valley Land Trust, a nonprofit land conservation organization based in Hanover, N.H.

Thomas' internship focuses on two properties protected by the Land Trust. He is studying the natural resources at Stonecliff Island, an area of about 24 acres in the Connecticut River between Bradford, Vt., and Piermont, N.H., and at a portion of the Big Rock Nature Area, a plot of almost 13 acres in Lyme, N.H. By identifying the plants and animals and examining ecosystems and habitats at both locales, he will help the Land Trust develop public access plans for the properties.

"I like the independent nature of the project," says Thomas, "and the freedom to make my own schedule. I also like being outside most of the time. My job involves canoeing to the island, which is quite enjoyable.

The Land Trust, established in 1985, has permanently protected more than 260 parcels of land totaling more than 25,000 acres over a 40-town area of New Hampshire and Vermont. As more land is protected each year, Dartmouth faculty and students have found more opportunities to be involved.

"Quinn is an asset to our ongoing efforts to make good management decisions concerning these two important pieces of property," says Kate Read Villars, Community Relations Director at UVLT. "There is a natural connection between the Land Trust and Dartmouth, and we hope Quinn's work is helping to set the stage for future collaborations."

Thomas, who wants to pursue a career "at the frontier of ecology, economics and conservation," is collecting data on each parcel of land. At Stonecliff Island, he studies the plants and animals to produce a natural resources inventory that includes information about habitats and ecosystems. The staff at UVLT want to learn if any area on the parcel might be affected by future human activities, such as hiking, camping, farming or logging. The parcel in Lyme extends an existing town nature area along Grant Brook. For this piece of land, Thomas evaluates areas that might be susceptible to human activities. Since this land contains wetlands and part of a beaver pond, Thomas' report will be critical to establishing and maintaining trails or boardwalks through the property that bypass sensitive habitats.

"I am gaining experience in field sampling and using GPS [global positioning system] to report the locations of different species of plant and animals. I also enjoy working with the people at the Land Trust and learning about and advancing local conservation.

Thomas was able to enlist the help of students taking biology classes this summer. The "Field Methods in Ecology" course, taught by Jason Jones, used both properties as field laboratories and helped Thomas gather data for his internship.

"Quinn's enthusiasm for ecology and conservation biology is contagious," says Kathryn Cottingham, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences. "He's always full of interesting ideas, and I walk away from conversations with him feeling re-energized about my own research."

- Susan Knapp

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