A Geography Student Expands Her Horizons

My husband, Mark, and I moved to Cape Elizabeth almost four years ago and we absolutely love it here. I decided to go back to school and have nearly completed my B.A. in Geography and Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) at the University of Southern Maine (USM).

I applied for Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s Conservation Internship Program because I wanted to learn more about land conservation and stewardship, and about how land trusts use GIS mapping tools to manage conserved lands.

Out in the community

I am currently working with the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust (CELT), and during my first four weeks I have had the opportunity to get involved with a variety of community events and conservation data management projects.

On June 30th, I participated in CELT’s big fundraising event for the summer, the Paint for Preservation Wet Paint Auction, and enjoyed meeting CELT members and volunteers, as well as some of the artists.

I also helped set up the CELT booth and spoke with residents about CELT’s preservation work during the Cape Elizabeth Strawberry Festival on June 29th. We gained several new members at that event and everyone enjoyed the fresh strawberries.

Dianna Farrell talks with visitors about the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust (CELT) town trail map, and preservation and education efforts during the Cape Strawberry Festival at Maxwell Farms. Photo Credit: Tricia Wasserman.

Out on the trail

I have also assisted with trail and invasive plant monitoring efforts on some of CELT’s properties and received training on leading nature walks and tidepool exploration along Crescent Beach.

One of my current projects involves improving sections of trail in Robinson Woods Preserve, a popular preserve frequented by local residents and visitors for hiking, biking, and relaxing walks through the woods.

I created a trail maintenance report for the property to assist the Stewardship Committee with maintenance planning efforts. This project is helping me to learn how trails are maintained, and the work and planning involved in keeping trails in good condition.

New trail map posted at Hobstone Woods Preserve kiosk.

Back to map-making

A significant focus of my internship with CELT is using GIS techniques to create and publish updated trail maps and map the location of invasive plant species for CELT properties, and organizing geospatial data.

For example, I recently finished creating a new trail map for Hobstone Woods Preserve in Cape Elizabeth. This map will be the standard format for all CELT trail maps in order to maintain a consistent style across all of the properties.

I have especially enjoyed the trail map project for a couple reasons. First, I hike the trails to make sure the maps are correct before publishing them. There are truly some beautiful places here in Cape Elizabeth and as I walk the trails as part of the mapping project, I am also forming deeper connections to the woods, fields, and coastal areas of my home.

Second, since there are several components to mapping properties, trails, and specific features using GIS, I am learning new GIS skills and techniques through the variety of tasks that I complete.

Expanding skill sets

Some of these tasks include creating maps that are clear and intuitive for trail users, developing maps that support volunteer efforts for invasive plant removal, and managing and organizing geospatial data. I am also learning more about GIS, in general, from CELT members with GIS experience.

CELT is doing great work in Cape Elizabeth and I am happy to be involved with such a wonderful organization.

Dianna Farrell is one of ten 2019 Maine Coast Heritage Trust Conservation Interns. This summer she’s working with Cape Elizabeth Land Trust.