Abigail Mahoney: 2017 NYSDEC Urban Forestry Intern

Abigail at Storm King Maya Linn installation
Abigail at Storm King Art Center, taking in the Maya Lin installation, “Wavefield.”

Please tell us about your internship experience, including anything surprising.  
Abigail Mahoney: I began the Urban and Community Forestry internship at NYSDEC shortly after completing my junior year at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) in the environmental policy, planning, and law program. As someone who is not specifically a forestry student, I had hoped this internship would expose me to new concepts and varying points of view while appealing to my existing interests.

Abigail with her Dad
Abigail and her Dad at SUNY ESF’s Accepted Students Day in 2015.

I was not disappointed. During this internship, I worked to quantify community-based volunteer work throughout municipalities across New York State. Through this, I used the methods that governments, public agencies, nonprofits, and other private entities use to further community involvement in urban forestry work. I was previously unaware of the extent of community participation in urban forestry so seeing the success of these programs/projects was incredibly refreshing. Realizing the amount of work that people are capable of when fueled by nothing more than a common vision for the future was by far the most surprising (and exciting) aspect of my work here.

Some of the highlights of my internship were attending the 2017 ReLeaf Conference at St. John’s University in Queens and meeting environmental professionals from all different backgrounds and learning how they got to where they are today in the field. Their stories and advice have been incredibly helpful in determining my own path for the future.

Abigail pic of Olana
Abigail’s breathtaking shot of the landscape at Olana State Historic Site, the former home of Hudson River School painter Frederic Church.

What are your career goals? How did the internship shape or affect them? 
AM: I hope to complete my degree in environmental policy, planning, and law at SUNY ESF in May 2018 and then go on to pursue a master’s degree in planning, potentially after a gap year of volunteering and travelling. This internship opened my eyes to the critical importance of trees in urban planning and in public policy as well. The everyday tasks of my internship channeled my enthusiasm for both planning and policy while reinforcing the essential nature of trees in urban environments. This has inspired me to further my education and incorporate urban forestry into my long-term goal of working in the field of land-use planning.

I’d really like to thank the NYSDEC’s Mary Kramarchyk, Mary Martin, and Sally Kellogg for giving me an incredibly welcoming and helpful introduction to the professional (as opposed to academic) side of the field. Their guidance and advice has been especially valuable in determining what I want to get out of my future career.

Abigail photo from Overlook Mountain
Abigail shot this view from the Overlook Mountain fire tower, near Woodstock.

What are your passions in your free time you would like to share? 
AM: Like many in my field of study, I find no greater pleasure than exploring the natural areas around me. This love pairs nicely with my hobby as an amateur landscape/nature photographer. Taking photos, for me, is the closest I can get to fully immersing myself in any environment.

Growing up in the Northern Catskills has given me great inspiration in my hobby through both the area’s natural beauty and its history, most particularly its role in the American environmental movement. Growing up seeing paintings from the Hudson River School by artists such as Thomas Cole and Frederic Church inspired me to use art to approach the vast and seemingly intangible beauty of the area. Since I am not talented at painting, I found that photography was best suited for me. My favorite places to take pictures are Olana State Historic Site in Hudson, Overlook Mountain near Woodstock, and Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse. Besides photography, I enjoy other hobbies such as reading Stephen King novels, collecting vinyl, and visiting museums.

Oakwood Cemetery by Abigail
A scene Abigail shot of the beautiful Oakwood Cemetery, which is adjacent to SUNY ESF.

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