University of Maine / Acadian Internship in Regional Conservation and Stewardship

Rob Lilieholm
School of Forest Resources

Initiative Description and Primary Objectives 

The Acadian Internship is a six-week course in landscape-scale regional conservation based in Downeast coastal Maine and New Brunswick. The course is a mix of in-class lectures and field-based experiential learning. The first week at SERC – located on the coast and within Acadia National Park – involves five days of intensive classroom-based instruction by over two dozen local- to internationally-recognized experts (see attached course schedule and list of speakers). While at SERC, seminars and tutorials are held daily, including evening sessions. Faculty and field staff work directly with students 6 to 10 hours each day, and are available for additional help before and after scheduled activities. Field manuals and readings include literature selections from academics, research texts and reports, and environmental impact assessments and planning documents—all available on-line at Guest presenters include national park staff, university researchers, and local residents. During the four-week internship portion of the course, students are placed with local host organizations in the field and will work directly with staff from those organizations, with at least two site visits from course faculty (see attached list of internship sponsors and assignments).

Key Academic Disciplines 

Academic instruction and field-based experiential learning with local governments and NGOS at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Key Partner Organizations and Individuals 

UMaine, Harvard University, Acadia National Park and the Schoodic Education and Research Center, Quebec-Labrador Foundation, Downeast Salmon Federation, Downeast Lakes Land Trust, Friends of Frenchman Bay, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Nature Trust of New Brunswick, Marine Environmental Research Institute, and others.

Initiative History and Champions 

Jim Levitt from Harvard Forest and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Also Sarah Nelson from UMaine, Megan Gaul from Bates College, and Bill Zoellich (SERC).

Distinctiveness and Strategic Significance of the Initiative 

We are actively working with NGOs and governmental institutions in the Downeast Maine region to promote a regional conservation identify for coastal Maine and New Brunswick. Our work not only trains students, but builds capacity at host institutions and achieves concrete conservation outcomes at the project level through our intern placement.

Measurable Effectiveness of the Initiative 

We have just completed our second year of the internship. Once again, the Program was very successful – both for students and for the organizations with which they partnered. Moreover, we increased the number of NGO host partners, and grew student enrollment by about 50%, to 16 students from 8 countries.

Transferability of the Initiative 

Our intern placement approach should be readily transferable to other locations where civil society and local governments are working to reach sustainable development goals.

The Initiative’s Ability to Endure 

We are steadily building a funding base to assist students in course fees, as well as intern hosts with lodging and stipend expenses. So far, we are on-track to meet last year’s support levels, and look forward to continued growth in the future.

Engagement Strategies 

We place students in the field with local government and NGOs. They work on a host of projects, and gain valuable experience not only in on-the-ground conservation work, but in how NGOs and local government approach and solve complex conservation issues.