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GLIN==> NY Sea Grant Will Oversee Dune Internship Program

Posted on behalf of Kara Dunn <karalynn@gisco.net>

For Immediate Release: March 15, 2001
For More Information: Molly Thompson, Dune & Habitat Educator, NY Sea Grant,

NY Sea Grant Will Oversee Dune Internship Program

Oswego, NY -- New York Sea Grant, The Nature Conservancy, and the NYS
Department of Conservation are partnering to bring college students to Lake
Ontario's eastern shore as dune stewards in summer 2001.

At least four interns will be chosen from a pool of professor-recommended
students at SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry, Cornell
University, and SUNY-Cobleskill. The interns can receive college credit and
a stipend instead of wages paid in previous years. NYS DEC Region 6,
headquartered in Watertown, and Region 7, Syracuse, will pay the stipend.
The Nature Conservancy, which has overseen dune stewards program in past
years, and New York Sea Grant are funding the program coordinator's
position. Molly Thompson, a Dune & Habitat Educator with NY Sea Grant,
Oswego, will be the program coordinator.

The interns will work at several sites along a 17-mile stretch of Lake
Ontario shoreline stretching from Port Ontario in Oswego County north to
Dexter in Jefferson County. Properties include the state-owned Sandy Pond
Beach and Deer Creek Marsh Wildlife Management Area (WMA), Lakeview WMA and
Black Pond WMA; El Dorado Nature Preserve, owned by The Nature Conservancy;
and Southwick Beach State Park. The NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and
Historic Preservation will be providing the program with office space at
Southwick Beach.

"This program is critical because the dunes are an important natural
resource area that is fragile and attracts intense human use," says Doug
Thompson, Tug Hill/Eastern Lake Ontario Project Director for The Nature
Conservancy, Pulaski. "The internship program allows us to use an
educational approach for threat abatement. The students will have a natural
resource background and be able to interpret the dunes as a fragile resource
while encouraging wise use of the beach areas. In this way, the resource can
continue to contribute to the economics of the local communities."

Original Stewards Walked Sandy Pond Beach

Dave Forness, Supervising Forester with NYSDEC Region 7, Cortland, says the
original dune steward program began on Sandy Pond Beach, which was becoming
as busy as some State Parks on a warm summer day. Properties such as Sandy
Pond Beach and Sandy Island Beach represent a dichotomy of heavy
recreational use and sensitive and rare and endangered sand dune
communities. This dichotomy creates a challenge to manage the properties and
maintain a balance of use and environmental protection, Mr. Forness says.

"The dune steward program was so successful that we saw a major rebound in
the health of the dune system. The shift of visitor use to other sensitive
areas, however, created the need to expand the program along the shoreline,"
Mr. Forness explains. "This expanded internship program brings together
several state and county agencies, two regions of DEC, lands & forest and
fish & wildlife staff, The Nature Conservancy, New York Sea Grant and the
Friends of Sandy Pond Beach. It is unusual to have government agencies and
not-for-profits working so closely with a shared mission and goal."

NY Sea Grant Great Lakes Program Coordinator Dave White agrees. "We are
pleased to be working with a diverse group of continuing and new partners
supporting the dune program. The interns will benefit from the learning
experience while the shoreline benefits from the students' contact with
public regarding the value of the natural resource. The interns' project
work may also produce significant data for future shoreline projects."

One of last year's interns standardized a system for monitoring and
recording visitation and use patterns. Intern study areas for 2001 may
include wildlife, habitat management, and interpretation with the
opportunity to lead field trips for area residents, campers and tourists.

The summer 2001 interns will be on the beaches educating people about the
importance of the dunes and the shoreline ecosystem. They will help curb
damaging activities, such as dune walking and bonfires. For the students,
this opportunity provides great on-the-ground training working with diverse
audiences from children to senior citizens and summer-only residents to
year'round and life-long residents with various interests in wildlife,
habitat, recreational use and environmental protection, says Ms. Thompson.

Ms. Thompson counts her personal experience with internships while earning
her Bachelors of Science degree in zoology at Michigan State University and
a Masters of Science in wildlife science at Auburn University in Alabama as
valuable learning opportunities. Before joining NY Sea Grant last fall, she
worked as a naturalist at Beaver Lake Nature Center in Baldwinsville, as an
assistant nature center manager in Kansas City, and as an Extension program
coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

For information on the Dune Internship Program and other Sea Grant programs
on marine and Great Lakes education, fisheries, aquatic nuisance species,
and coastal tourism and recreation, contact NY Sea Grant, SUNY-Oswego,
Oswego, NY 13126, 315-312-3042.

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