Science in the Supersanctuary with Keene State College

Conservation interns Stefan Birardi and Kyle Tefft document a roadkilled painted turtle on Route 123.

Four Keene State College students — Stefan Birardi and Kyle Tefft (pictured), along with Alexandra Kirk and Stephen Day — have just completed a seven-week summer internship collecting ecological data on Harris Center lands, as part of a new partnership with the KSC Environmental Studies Department.

Under the guidance of KSC professors and Harris Center staff, the students documented 21 vernal pools, identified 4 invasive plant infestations, conducted weekly monitoring of the Harris Center’s campsites on Spoonwood Pond, sampled 17 forest community inventory plots, assisted with special events like the Junior Solar Sprint and the Otter Brook Farm Stewardship Day, and initiated the first-ever wildlife road mortality study of Route 123, which bisects Supersanctuary lands in Hancock, Antrim, Stoddard, and Nelson.  For this survey, the students walked four transects (totaling just over 3 miles) along Route 123 fourteen different times, and recorded over 730 roadkilled animals, representing more than 20 different species. 

The roadkill study will continue in the fall, when the students return — with twenty of their classmates — to conduct natural resource inventory work on Harris Center lands for their capstone research projects.  It’s a win-win: the Harris Center acquires scientific data that we can use to better steward the lands in our care, and the students get an unparalleled, hands-on learning experience.  “Conducting field studies and interacting with other conservation professionals really enriches the students’ education,” explains KSC professor Dr. William Fleeger.  “It exposes them to demands and possibilities of the profession that is impossible to replicate in any other way.”  For more information on the summer internships and subsequent capstone research, check out this story on the KSC webpage.  To see more photos of the conservation interns in action, visit us on Flickr.  To learn more about the roadkill study, read this article from the Keene Sentinel or contact Brett Amy Thelen at thelen@harriscenter.org.