Better together: Partnership between SUNY-ESF, New York Natural Heritage program increases work opportunities for students

Micah Benson | Art Director

SUNY-ESF and the New York Natural Heritage Program are teaming up to increase research opportunities for both organizations.

The Natural Heritage Program helps agencies and organizations set priorities in land management and conservation. The funding helps support scientists who work in the field to determine the location of rare species throughout the speech. This information is then put into a database for scientists to analyze, according to a Sept. 20 State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry news release.

The program, which is primarily financed by government funds and grants, was seeking an institution to serve as its host and found a partner in ESF. In exchange, ESF will receive about $6.3 million to support the program, according to the release.

DJ Evans, director of the Heritage Program, said she first approached Donald Leopold, chair of the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology and distinguished teaching professor at ESF, about hosting the program a year ago.

“Ten other universities in the US host their state’s Heritage programs so the idea of ESF hosting NY’s wasn’t odd,” Leopold said in an email.

While the group’s headquarters are in Albany, N.Y., the staff will be visiting ESF regularly, according to the release.

The partnership is still in its first semester, but it will have long-term benefits for all of those involved.

The relationship will increase opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students looking to gain significant professional experience with a talented group of biologists, ecologists, GIS analysts and data managers, all working on cataloging the biological diversity of New York, Leopold said.

In the past, ESF students have been able to intern with the program, but soon, additional opportunities for internships, summer employment and short-term contract work will be added, Leopold said.

“These partnerships are typically contracted for five year periods but continue for decades,” he said. “I expect the same with our partnership with the NYNHP.”

Leopold said he has two goals for the collaboration. The first is to publish articles and data in peer-reviewed journals that address significant conservation issues that couldn’t be written about without the strong partnership.

Secondly, Leopold said, he’d like to see graduates from his department employed as part of the Heritage Program’s permanent staff.

Said Leopold: “I hope for more permanent opportunities for our best students.”



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