Applied environmental research and public outreach are the missions of both Plymouth State University’s Center for the Environment and the Squam Lakes Association (SLA) in Holderness, making a partnership between the two a benefit to both organizations, and Northern New England’s overall conservation efforts. Stacy Luke, a research associate for SLA and a PSU graduate fellow seeking her master’s degree in environmental science and policy, represents that partnership in action.
PSU’s Center for the Environment was established a year ago with the hiring of Steve Kahl as director. SLA’s Executive Director Chris Devine was on the search committee that hired Kahl, and says ideas for working together began to develop during the interview process.
“Chris mentioned he needed to hire a research associate,” says Kahl, “so I suggested we pool resources and hire a person to our mutual advantage. We advertised for a person that would enroll in the master’s program.”
Devine indicates it was perfect timing for such a partnership. “SLA has taken a dramatic turn over the last 10 years,” he says. “The Resource Center resulted in rapid growth and development of the association, reaching out to many more people and increasing the need for additional staff. Then in 2001 we got hit with a milfoil problem in the watershed, which brought into focus the need to develop a science-based understanding of the watershed.
“At the same time, PSU was gearing up for the Center for the Environment and the development of new master’s programs,” Devine continues. “Here was a clear opportunity to collaborate to increase understanding, advance education and give students practical experience.”
“Both will get something in return: labor, publications, research and outreach to the community for each program,” says Stacy Luke. “What I get out of it is a more diverse research experience and a MS degree while I am employed full time. When I saw the advertisement for the position, I saw an opportunity to gain the research skills and experience I was missing. PSU will help me hone my research skills and SLA will focus on the application of research.”
Luke, who is from Rumney, began her research associate fellowship back in June. She was selected for the fellowship based on her past experience, vested interest in the region and her goals fitting the needs of SLA and the Center for the Environment. Managing and monitoring milfoil, water quality monitoring and overseeing Squam Lakes’ Lake Host program have been her primary objectives. The Lake Host program, itself a partnership with the NH Lakes Association, involves checking boats for invasive plants at the boat ramp and informing boaters about invasive plant problems.
During the second year of her fellowship, Luke will be joined by another fellow. According to both Kahl and Devine, the plan is to bring a second graduate student on board next fall for another two-year position, the timeline for completing a graduate degree. Over time, the goal is to develop an endowment to fund a permanent program with two graduate fellows enrolled on alternate years, as well as increasing the involvement of PSU students at the undergraduate level.
“Our partnership with SLA is a win-win, cost-effective way for two organizations to do more with their resources than they could alone,” says Kahl. “This is a theme of the Center: develop ‘critical mass’ to mutual advantage.”
Devine agrees, “The partnership with PSU will increase understanding of the issues involved in preserving our natural resources, but more importantly increase the acceptance of understanding because it is based on research.”