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Internship in conservation takes students to Canada

During the summer of 2010, five Penn State Berks students completed the college's International Conservation Internship at Presqu'ile Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. The interns were led by Dr. Jennifer Arnold, Associate Professor of Biology at Penn State Berks.

The interns conducted conservation research on declining populations of water birds, assisted in the management of endangered snapping turtles and reforestation projects, and produced an interpretive poster for the park's nature center.

Eric Knoll, first-year student majoring in agriculture; Creston Smoker, sophomore, biology; and Joshua Scornavacchi, Biology '10, were involved in the internship for approximately one month each, while Chellby Kilheffer, sophomore, biology; and Ashton Romero, sophomore, agriculture, were involved for 4-5 days each.

Over the past two years, ten biology students have participated in this internship program. For many of these students, it was their first time outside of the U.S., or even away from home for an extended period of time. For almost all, it was their first experience working side-by-side with professionals in natural resource management and research, exploring the challenges and rewards of working in conservation science.

Arnold explains that she strongly believes that much of the value of scientific discovery, particularly in conservation ecology, is in its ability to stimulate social and political change.

The nature center also displays decoys of common terns, a small water bird known to nest in dense aggregations on small islands, which were created by Penn State Berks students in 2009 and used as part of a social attraction study in an effort to increase nesting numbers. Researchers in Canada have recorded a greater than 40% decline in common terns in the Canadian Great Lakes region over the last 30 years. The social attraction study was designed to attract common terns to the park via the use of sound recordings and decoys.

Next year, an extended version of the internship will be launched. In addition to the summer program at Presqu'ile Provincial Park, one student will have the opportunity to participate in nocturnal research on saw-whet owls during the fall of 2011 in conjunction with the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art in Millersburg, PA. This international experience will offer the student a unique opportunity to compare differences in conservation approaches between the U.S. and Canada and experience working in very different field conditions.

For more information on the Berks International Conservation Internship, contact Arnold at 610-396-6174.

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