Interns reveal the power of stewardship

Several interns describe how working in the field with younger generations helped them bring greater awareness to environmental stewardship in the surrounding communities.

Allies and Partners

Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship with an appreciation for our surroundings and the well-being of future generations. The series is coordinated by ACES, the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

Stewardship is one of the most important concepts we can define. According to Merriam-Webster, stewardship is “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.”

At Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats in Newburyport, nine summer interns brought this definition to life every day through public interpretation, animal care and conservation efforts.

"Joppa is here to teach!"

Intern Jake Greco said, “I have learned that Joppa Flats has the power to give people of all ages new knowledge. There is always more to learn, and Joppa is here to teach!” Jake is one of five animal husbandry interns who manage the daily care, feeding and maintenance for a wide variety of insects, pond life and marine life on-site.

Some days, our interns were feeding fruit flies to tiny American toadlets and the next day, they were counting newly hatched horseshoe crabs!

This is not a behind-the-scenes, sitting-on-a-lab-stool kind of job.

Interns are always interacting with participants during programs, answering questions about our butterfly gardens, or offering advice to visiting birders on where the “hot spots” on Plum Island are.

We also train our interns to share information about local conservation efforts, climate action and smart environmental practices for families to try at home like partial mowing, or installing a rain barrel or raising native milkweed for monarch butterflies.

"It’s inspiring, humbling and important work”

Intern Rowan Mulder said, “My time here at Joppa Flats has helped kindle my passion for conservation and ecology not just by learning about the [effects] that climate change has on the environment, but also by fostering encounters with some of the creatures that are being put at risk because of our actions. Pepper weed removal, talking about the disappearing habitat of the salt marsh sparrow and the challenges of coastal erosion and sea level rise on Plum Island are just some of the conservation themes that we bring to our programs. It’s inspiring, humbling and important work.”

There are also interns who focused more on public interpretation and education. These four interns initiated some new public programs this summer about birding and our local biodiversity that we can offer at no charge.

The objective was to offer live animal programs to families not just in the Newburyport area, but also to gateway cities and towns nearby.

In six weeks, we welcomed families from 22 cities to enjoy an outdoor program with live animals and a chance to learn about stewardship firsthand through the interpretation that our interns provide. The best part is the interns ran these programs with support from education volunteers and Joppa Flats teen naturalists on a weekly basis.

“It’s so amazing to watch kids of all ages interact with our creatures and learn about native wildlife,” said animal husbandry intern Gillian Audier. Some interns, like Gillian, also challenged themselves by participating in programs where they got to share their knowledge with youth and families at the pond, the tide pools, and in the riverside yard at Joppa Flats.

By sharing experiences, our interns had the chance to bring our Meet Beach Creatures programs to some youth groups from Lawrence Public Schools as part of the Lawrence summer program.

Many of these young participants were seeing tide pool creatures or holding a live crab for the first time. A favorite comment of mine came from a 9-year-old who said, “At first, I was really afraid to touch this stuff. Now, I am kind of in love with them!”

Another child asked if we could come back again and a third with a huge grin on her face said, “I’m 12! When are you gonna hire me?”

It is encounters like these where our youths can find joy, wonder, confidence and concern about the environment that really shows that what our interns are doing matters.

This is just one example of how our interns are connecting to hundreds of kids and their parents and where the positive effects of fostering environmental stewardship happens on a daily basis.

This column was coordinated by ACES Youth Corps member Caleb Bradshaw. To share any comments or questions, send an email to To learn more about ACES, go to

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about the author
Lisa Hutchings

Lisa Hutchings is the School & Family Education Coordinator for Mass Audubon. She has been with Joppa Flats for 15 years. Ms. Hutchings attended LIU Southampton for marine biology and worked at the New England Aquarium for ten years as the Senior Supervisor of Outreach & Public Programs. Ms. Hutchings supervises and trains seasonal teacher naturalists, education and animal husbandry interns and teen naturalists to help connect people to the natural world and help uphold the mission of Mass Audubon which is to protect the nature of Massachusetts. Ms. Hutchings presents teacher workshops, gives lectures and leads programs for homeschool, preschool, families, teens and school groups. Lisa lives in Amesbury with her two teenagers, Abby and Danny and her husband Mark.

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