Friday, September 19, 2008

FOPOS Intern Par Excellence

This summer, the Friends of Princeton Open Space had an intern for the first time. Sarah Chambliss, a Princeton University junior, came to us through the Princeton Internships for Civic Service program. Over a period of ten weeks, she contributed tremendously to various projects, cutting down invasive shrubs at Mountain Lakes Preserve, planting native species, creating a structure and attractive banners for a new website, mapping management units, and serving as faithful scribe during the weekly plant inventory walks in various preserves around town. Here she is shown with the many native plants she cared for in the greenhouse.

The second photo is of me, Sarah, and FOPOS president Wendy Mager, in front of Mountain Lakes House, home base for FOPOS.

A great big THANK YOU! goes to Sarah, and the PICS program that made her internship possible.

Below is Sarah's writeup about her summer's work and insights.

My FOPOS Internship

(or: How I Learned to Start Worrying and Hate the Rose)

In many ways, my internship with Friends of Princeton Open Spaces was unique. There are not many summer jobs that allow you the freedom to choose your daily schedule to such a degree, but on any given day I could opt to spend my time nursing the plants in the greenhouse, working actively out in the park, or, for the rainy days and hot afternoons, working in the air-conditioned office. There are not many summer jobs that give you so much freedom to choose which project you want to work on, whether it be redesigning a website or taking inventory of all the plants in the local preserves, and run with it, but the work I did for FOPOS will certainly add some variety to my résumé. And there are not many summer jobs that leave you with a deep, seething hatred of a few certain plants. But oh, I will remember barberry. I will remember all of the invasive shrubs, vines, and grasses that I fought with my loppers, clippers, and sweat: the common privet; honeysuckle, in the form of both vines and shrubs; Japanese stiltgrass and bindweed. And I will remember multiflora rose, in it's full malevolent ferocity.

There are few ways I can think of to better understand the goal of conservation and park management, and the scale of work needed, than to see a grove of forest that have long been protected and largely undisturbed, then to be brought to another, less lucky patch of forest and be told "We need to make this one look like that other one." Seeing the great variety of plants and hearing the animal activity in a preserved forest is both peaceful and stimulating, and becomes a fitting inspiration when facing a massive, sprawling bramble of multiflora rose that is doing its best to shut out the rest of the ecosystem.

I was already interested in environmentalism before I started the internship, but I always thought of it with a more exotic connotation: save the rainforest in Brazil, protect the endangered pandas in China, help African nations develop sustainably and preserve their natural riches. Here in New Jersey, I thought, the only environmentalism left was to recycle and ride a bike instead of a car. New Jersey is hardly known for its natural riches. What is there to save? But being in the Mountain Lakes Preserve every day, seeing both the bad and the good, the incursion of invasives and the resurgence of natives (with a bit of help from park management), I was surprised to find a whole lot to save, protect and fight for, just 15 minutes from my dorm.

So, thank you, FOPOS, for what you do, helping to set aside land to be restored and protected. And thank you for letting me help out for the summer. I learned a lot on many levels, and I really enjoyed my time working here. In closing, I would just like to say that I claim no responsibility for the future stealth-cutting of exotic invasives decorating the lawns and yards around Princeton Township, or the greater Mercer County Area.

--Sarah Chambliss, PICS Intern for FOPOS, Summer '08

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