As a scientist at the Holden Arboretum, I wear many hats, but one of my favorites is mentor to our summer interns. Each year, Holden’s Research Department brings in students from around the country to join us in our labs, gardens, and forests. These students help us collect valuable data used to make new discoveries about the role of plants in our natural world, and in turn, get to try their hand at being a scientist. Many of them will go on to become scientists themselves.
This year, like so many other aspects of life, these internships looks a lot different. We’re doing more work outside. We’re maintaining 6 feet of distance. We’re not handing each others equipment. When we all meet as a group to discuss careers or scientific ideas, we do it over Zoom. But the spirit of the program remains the same. We’re still sharing our love of science with the next generation of scientists. We’re still advancing our understanding of plants and our natural world. We’re still working together to push the field of plant science forward.
This year we have eight amazing interns working across four labs in Holden’s Research Department. These students have been with us since early May, working on a diverse range of projects, from explorations of the complex interactions between pollinators and the floral microbiome in crabapple, to the impacts of the urban environment on forest trees. In their work, these students have gained new skills, both tangible, and more nebulous. Some have learned to identify plants in our forests, others have learned how to carefully extract DNA from soil samples. Like the rest of us, they’re also learning how to be resilient – adapting to a barrage of new protocols designed to promote safety in an environment that sometimes feels less than ideal for learning. But this year, perhaps more than ever, there seems to be unique value in the chance to work and learn at an organization that seeks to explore the importance of our natural world and to connect people with nature.
f you are curious to learn more about what these interns have been up to this summer, what they’ve learned, and where they’re heading next, watch this space. We’ll be posting brief bios of our interns and their summer research here in the coming week. We hope you’ll be as inspired as we are.