Victoria Thomas was one of the four Forest Project Crew Leaders this past summer. She is a recent graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. She led her crew’s restoration efforts on the northernmost site of Wave Hill’s Herbert & Hyonja Abrons Woodland. For more than three decades, Wave Hill has offered a paid summer internship program for high school students, giving them an opportunity to gain hands-on field and academic experience as they learn about urban ecology.
The summer ended as quickly as it started for the high school students participating in Forest Project at Wave Hill. They learned to identify and remove invasive plant species that are common throughout the woodland, such as garlic mustard, porcelainberry, and mugwort. Interns also learned different techniques for erosion control. In addition to all their work in the field, they went on several field trips, listened to amazing speakers who are leaders in their fields, and took college-level courses.
Interns worked in groups of six on four different sites in the woodland. First-year interns collected data about the trees and plants found on their sites. They created a final project based on their data collection and what they learned in the “Restoration of NYC’s Natural Areas” academic course. These projects were presented at the Woodland Ecology Research Mentorship (WERM) program graduation, as pictured here. (WERM is a 14-month program for high school students to conduct field research with working scientists.)
They, too, presented their work during WERM graduation with creative topics, and intriguing maps.
All interns also took their learning beyond the walls of Wave Hill—they went on a few, fun field trips as well! They went to Ward Pound Ridge, Van Cortlandt Park, Pelham Bay Park and Inwood Hill Park. At Pelham Bay Park, they learned survival skills and canoed on the river. On other trips, interns went hiking, learned about the history of the parks and helped remove invasive species. This next shot was taken as we canoed with park rangers at Pelham Bay Park.
Throughout the summer, interns had the opportunity to meet several guest speakers who work in ecology: Susan Antenen, the founder of the Forest Project; Eric Sanderson, a landscape ecologist working for the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo; Ferdie Yau, a partner in the Gotham Coyote Project and a dog trainer; and Bill Young, a landscape architect and wetland specialist. These speakers gave the interns new perspectives on environmental and restoration work.
As the last days of the program approached, interns worked on improving the woodland trails. It was challenging. They fixed the trails by adding, replacing and lifting logs—which they brought to the site themselves—and mulching the paths.
As a celebration for their hard work, Barry Kogan, Wave Hill’s Senior Manager of Youth Programs and Woodland Initiatives, hosted a BBQ at Pelham Bay Park. On the very last day of the program, they also celebrated their achievements by having a potluck full of culturally-diverse foods and drinks.
It was a bittersweet day in August when most of the interns said their goodbyes to their Crew Leaders and the Youth Programs staff. But, if asked to name five invasive species, interns would answer promptly: they have learned a lot during their seven-week journey here at Wave Hill.
This last shot is of my crew—that’s me front and center with the braids. Just seeing it now brings back good memories..