Hellloooooo fellow tree fans! As the days get a little shorter and we move into the lazy days of August my internship with VT UCF is wrapping up. I can’t emphasize enough how much I’ve enjoyed my time with the program; after all, who doesn’t want to just think about trees all the time?
This internship has taken me across Vermont, exploring Middlebury and Burlington on foot but also via phone to almost every corner of the state. I think I’ve spoken to upwards of 30 town clerks in the hopes of identifying tree wardens in each town or city.
The most insightful moments have come from speaking with the tree wardens themselves. I interviewed five tree wardens: Brad Goedkoop (Hartford), Chris Zeoli (Middlebury), Warren Spinner (Burlington), Dan Adams (Brattleboro), and Mark Dillenbeck (Charlotte). Each of these men has a different story, they have different backgrounds, different approaches to the role of tree warden and different plans for the future. But what unites them is a deep appreciation for trees, noticing individual trees in a way that most of us fail to see. Through them I learned to pay attention to my surroundings. When walking down the sidewalk, vegetation, or lack thereof, stands out to me. In the park I look more carefully at the trees for quantity and species diversity, characteristics that had never stood out to me before.
Through interviewing the tree wardens, I saw the power individuals have to create change. I’m not the first person to feel that sometimes challenges in the world, especially regarding the environment, seem too big to solve. As individuals, it’s easy to think our actions don’t matter. But this summer I saw how a single person, through time and dedication can make a real difference for the tree population and community well-being where they live. I learned about programs to create new parks, funds generated for tree plantings, and citizen outreach to promote tree care. From an individual’s perspective, it may be hard for tree wardens to understand the impact their dedication is having. But together, tree wardens throughout the state create a network that encompasses Vermont. Their actions unify and the entire state benefits. There really is so much power in collective action.
While I have loved working for VT UCF, I definitely struggled at times. Aside from weekly meetings with Elise, I was basically on my own to get work done. Between summer brain and little to no schedule, combined with working full time Tuesday-Friday, I had to discipline myself to get the work done; it can be so hard to sit down and focus on a task. So far, the only conclusion I’ve drawn is that it isn’t so much whether or not I like working on my own but rather how I can develop this skill so that it isn’t a hurdle to productivity but an additive. I came to understand the necessity of designating both certain times and locations for work. Turns out that while my couch may seem appealing, it is also the place where efficiency crumbles. In looking back at the summer, I’m happy with the profiles I put together and I hope that my work on the website and putting together tree warden resources will be helpful, but I also know more about myself and my working habits than when I started this internship.
I’m heading off in a couple of weeks for a semester in Tanzania studying wildlife conservation and I hope to take what I learned this summer with me. Just like the tree wardens I want to bring a curiosity and passion to all the new sights and sounds, especially the ones that too often go unnoticed. And in the same way I approached my interviews I hope to be an open and attentive listener. From Elise, my incredible boss for the summer I want to take yes, impeccable organization but also kindness and a sense of adventure. I’ve learned so much in all of my interactions through this internship and I’m so grateful for the experience. Thank you so much to all the tree wardens, for taking time to speak with me but more importantly taking the limited spare time you have and devoting yourselves to the trees! Thank you to Elise, you’ve been a wonderful mentor. I’m so impressed by VT UCF and grateful to have gotten to spend time with the program.
Greta's summer internship was focused on helping VT UCF better support tree wardens statewide. She developed five tree warden profiles, restructured the tree warden webpages (work still in progress; will go live soon), began to develop a new VT Tree Wardens Manual, and helped us enhance our database of current tree wardens statewide. Greta did outstanding work for us this summer and we're excited for her adventures ahead!