Hannah Stewart ’20 embraces challenges and new experiences. Last year, after just her second year of studying environmental conservation and sustainability at UNH, she enrolled in a summer internship with Extension’s community and economic development team.
Stewart spent time exploring the downtowns and natural resources of 13 New Hampshire communities alongside Stephanie Gardner ’18, a fellow intern. The pair helped collect data to assess how these communities can better use trails, waterways and other natural resources to bolster their local economies. “In the field, I used Collector, an app that uses ArcGIS to catalog notable characteristics or features like trails and river walks,” Stewart says. ArcGIS is an interactive geographic information system used for creating and using maps.
When walking in downtown areas, Stewart considered infrastructure and wayfinding. “I looked for characteristics such as businesses, lighting, signage, trailheads and overnight accommodations. Once I found a notable feature, I added it to Collector, defined it as either an existing asset or an opportunity, took a photo and wrote a brief description.”
Shannon Rogers, state specialist of nature-based economic development and associate Extension professor, provided guidance to Stewart and helped mentor her throughout the internship. About Rogers, Stewart says, “She was super encouraging and created a positive work environment. I gained so much insight from her.”
An Internship Makes an Impact
Stewart has been applying the skills and knowledge gained through her internship to her coursework at UNH. At first, she found it difficult to define and classify natural resources because of the subjectivity involved. Learning how to navigate the software also required lots of practice. After working with several communities, however, she gained confidence and experience, which then allowed her to use the app for a summer fellowship to help observe forests with drones.
Stewart, who hopes to attend graduate school for agriculture and resource economics and pursue a career in higher education, says the access she gained through UNH Extension to hundreds of maps and information allowed her to pursue her research and interests on a deeper level. “This position brought me so much joy and a heightened understanding of community and environmental development,” she says.
The data she gathered will help assist those communities as they continue to create vibrant spaces with a focus on quality of life. “My internship helped me find a path for my own career and even made a difference for New Hampshire towns,” she says.