CISE Students Wrap Up at the Gorge

2018 College Internship in Suburban Ecology (CISE) students wrap up at Mianus River Gorge

Each summer, Mianus River Gorge offers a highly sought-after internship for undergraduate college students with an interest in ecology. Under the tutelage of MRG staff scientists and graduate research assistants, the interns contribute to the Gorge’s on-going research in and around the Preserve.

This year, four students were selected among a pool of talented applicants from colleges across the country. Mianus River Gorge hosted Scott Campbell of Ursinus College, Amandine Tooth of University of British Columbia, Heather Williams of University of Vermont, and Jake Spinella of SUNY Geneseo.

Mianus River Gorge is engaged in several research initiatives and on-going stewardship of the Preserve and its environs. The CISE students contribute greatly to our efforts during their time spent at the Gorge.

For example, the students assisted Chris Nagy and Budd Veverka with wildlife camera deployment for the Gotham Coyote Project and the Bear Study. “We traveled around the county to collect data from cameras that hoped to find black bears. We learned about urban / suburban ecology as we traveled down to the NYC area to collect data from camera traps that show evidence of animals like coyotes which are adept at living in these conditions,” said Scott Campbell. They also managed the Turtle Study that aims to restore a previously successful nesting site and protect it from predation using a solar-powered electric fence that allows turtles to pass underneath. Wildlife cameras monitor predators, breeding, and possible poaching activities.

The students assisted Ph.D. candidate Zach Gajewski, our RAP student from Virginia Tech, with his Frog Study. Zach’s research focuses on the distribution of the pathogenic chytrid fungus that affects frogs and other amphibians. They also helped Nicole Fusco with her study of the two-lined salamander population in the Mianus River Watershed and found another species, the four-toed salamander, quite uncommon in the Gorge.

The college students also spent time focused on their own projects, including monitoring the health of the hemlocks in the forest; reconfiguring the exclosures to allow predators to pass through while keeping deer out; estimating the population of the Gorge’s deer herd; and evaluating the Deer Management Program. “I researched the geology of the area to create a sign that explains the structure and mineralogy of the Hobby Hill Quarry. I learned computer programs like R and GIS as well as lots of useful information about post-graduate life,” said Jake Spinella.

Stewardship is always a major focus of college students’ internships here. They helped remove invasive weeds and vines; helped repair the deer exclosures; pitched in during Volunteer Days; and helped build steps and retaining walls along the trails. They got dirty and sweaty but remained cheerful and enthusiastic contributors to our efforts to take care of the Preserve.

Mianus River Gorge’s Research & Education program is the bellwether for like-minded organizations in the region. Students get a hands-on ecology research experience, meaningful field experience, learn best practices in data collection, interpretation and presentation, and better understand the path for further study or a career in the sciences.

MRG raises funds to pay the college interns a very modest stipend. If you would like to donate to the Research & Education program and help support an intern, please visit our donation page. Thank you!

Posted in CISE Interns, Research News.