Cultivating a Future for Conservation

Summer Program Grants Students Hands-on Experience

Carl Martin, Director of Property Stewardship

In 2012, Wildlands Conservancy launched the Stewardship Crew program, better known as “Stew Crew.” Led by Director of Property Stewardship Carl Martin, the program grants students with environmental majors the paid opportunity to immerse themselves in a summer dedicated to conservation and stewardship.

While working to maintain the 2,600 acres that make up Wildlands’ nine nature preserves, crew members are exposed to real-world conservation research and progressive management techniques – while also networking with a variety of project partners. Martin hopes they’ll leave with the experience and confidence necessary to further their careers.

Martin says, “The hands-on, on-the-ground experiences they gain while stewarding our nature preserves is one they won’t find in the classroom!”

Now in its sixth year, the program has hosted many students-turned-professionals. We caught up with two former crew members to look back on their experience and where it’s taken them.

A Look Back: Shawn Boland  & Jordan Kmetz

Shawn Boland
Shawn BolandSteward for NY & NJ Trail Conference
Jordan Kmetz
Jordan KmetzUtility Forester, Davey Resource Group

Shawn always felt a magnetic attraction to nature and knew from an early age he’d pursue a career in the outdoors. While studying at Lehigh Carbon Community College, a professor recommended he explore Pool Wildlife Sanctuary. It was on this first visit that he had a chance encounter with Carl Martin, and soon after, began working with Stew Crew.

Under Martin’s mentorship, Shawn learned hands-on forestry management skills, including how to treat for invasive plants while preserving natives. Plus he gained experience with the safe operation of critical tools: chain saws and large tractors. He remembers being surprised by just how much there was to learn about conservation. His favorite project was the Golden-winged warbler habitat restoration at the Thomas Darling preserve, where he helped remove 53.4-acres of American Beech trees in just 11 weeks. He credits this project with teaching him what a profound environmental impact could be made in relatively short amount of time.

Shawn also recalls connections made with conservation professionals, “Having a professional interaction with a certified U.S. forester at Thomas Darling was really inspiring. It made me feel like there was a future for me in conservation – that could be me one day!” He continued working with Stew Crew for three years while completing a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences at Paul Smith’s College.

Shawn currently works as a steward for the NY & NJ Trail conference where he provides information on safety, park regulations and best practices to thousands of people. He utilizes his Stew Crew skills every day, “I’m able to identify safe trails and recognize when to abandon trails that have been overused. I can properly navigate difficult trails with heavy loads and safely traverse over rough terrain – all skills I learned with Wildlands.”

Now a resident of New York, Shawn feels he found a special home in Wildlands and a true kindred-spirit connection with Martin, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Wildlands, particularly Carl, who continues to inspires me to this day. I know the person I am today is a direct result of his kindness, support and mentorship.”

Jordan was first introduced to Wildlands while enrolled at Northampton Community College. His lifelong affinity for science and love of the outdoors led to a natural interest in the organization’s work. He decided to merge his personal interests and academic talents and began exploring academic programs that would lead to a career in the environmental sector.

After transferring to Millersville University in 2012, Jordan began working with Wildlands as an intern and instinctively felt he was in the right place. His internship focused on finding best management techniques for removing Viburnum siebold, an invasive shrub found in abundance at Pool Wildlife Sanctuary. Jordan notes that this was his first opportunity to work on a real conservation project, “The position allowed me to take all that text book knowledge I had learned in school and finally put it to use.” His research is still utilized to address the prolific plant at our Emmaus-based preserve.

Upon completion of his internship, Jordan was offered a position on Stew Crew. He worked with Martin for two years while earning a biology degree with a focus on environmental studies. Like Shawn, Jordan most enjoyed working on habitat restoration at the Thomas Darling preserve. This was the largest project he worked on and he found satisfaction in knowing that his efforts were helping to create a succession of forest suitable for the at-risk Golden-winged warbler.

He credits his time with Wildlands with teaching him to pay attention to detail, how to identify plants and trees and how to communicate with landowners in a professional way – skills critical to his current job as a utility forester with Davey Resource Group. Jordan values his time with Wildlands as equal with his schooling, “I wouldn’t have the position I’m in right now without my experience with Wildlands. Anyone purusing environmental studies, biology or a related field would certainly benefit from a position on Stew Crew.”

Are you a current student or recent graduate interested in gaining hands-on experience in the outdoors?

Apply for Stew Crew!