Endless Opportunities

Author: Melissa Leszek, M.S. Candidate, Environmental Science & Policy

The summer before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, I made my way up to New Hampshire from northwest Pennsylvania on a conservation internship through the Student Conservation Association (www.thesca.org). This national non-profit organization had placed me in a world I had never visited. A world full of majesty seen in the surrounding pristine lakes and ancient mountains. A world full of endless adventure, endless beauty, endless inspiration, and endless opportunities. I owe my first experience in New Hampshire to the Squam Lakes Association as they accepted me into the area with open arms and trust in my environmental aspirations.

The Squam Lakes Association (SLA) is located about 10 miles east of Plymouth State University and was founded in 1904 to protect the Squam Lakes watershed through Conservation, Education and Outreach programs. In collaboration with local and state partners, the SLA promotes the protection, careful use and shared enjoyment of the lakes, mountains, forests, open spaces and wildlife of the Squam Lakes region. (Please click the link to read Andrew Vielleux’s research study with the SLA):

https://www.plymouth.edu/center-for-the-environment/projects/squam-lake-recreation-management-decision-system/

Photo taken in 2011 on SLA’s milfoil control boat, Millie, which houses a Diver Assisted Suction Harvester (DASH). This unit, designed by SLA Director of Recreation Brett Durham, is the most efficient method identified to remove variable milfoil from Squam. Variable milfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum) is an invasive species that can spread rapidly through a water-body, and has been in New Hampshire since the late 1960s.

During my time at the SLA, I was fortunate enough to spend a summer conserving and managing this beautiful area. Some of my responsibilities involved long days on the lake collecting water samples, hours spent in the woods maintaining the surrounding hiking trails, helping ecological interns manage invasive milfoil, or working with my fellow SCA interns to supervise the recreational camping sites located on Moon and Bowman Islands and Chamberlin Reynolds Memorial Forest.

Photo taken on Squam Lake with my fellow SLA conservation interns. Here we set out to different coves around the lake to take water samples for UNH.

 

I would not trade one moment of that summer as I learned many valuable skills, slept under the stars, and connected with many fascinating people in the area. I had finally found a place where I would enjoy pursuing other ambitions in the environmental field, and had the right channels to do it. My time at the Squam Lakes Association lead me to move to the area permanently after graduating, and eventually connected me to other opportunities in the region such as two years of field biology work for Loon Preservation Committee, and acceptance into the environmental science and policy master’s program at Plymouth State University. Continue reading