Jackie LaPlante, WVLT’s Spring 2020 Intern

May 22, 2020

Meet Jackie LaPlante, Our 2020 SUNY Geography Intern


The Wallkill Valley Land Trust (WVLT) has been partnering with the SUNY New Paltz Geography Department for several years to provide internship opportunities for their graduating seniors.

The internship program is the capstone of their geography degree, with most majors participating in the program. And this year, Jackie LaPlante has joined our team for the spring semester.

Several area organizations and government agencies also participate in the internship program, including the Mohonk Preserve, the City of Kingston, Village of New Paltz, and the Woodstock Land Conservancy, among others.

Interning with a small nonprofit such as the WVLT offers interns a chance to learn the day-to-day workings of a conservation organization while also putting their mapping knowledge into practice and, hopefully, allowing them to acquire a few more skills to bolster their resumes.

At the start of the 2020 spring semester, the WVLT had just moved into our new office space. Jackie’s first task was to help us unpack and set up the conference room. While not the most glamorous start to an internship, her work was greatly appreciated. With our conference room set up, we were able to start hosting our various monthly committee meetings.

Jackie put her geography skills to use by tackling several important mapping projects, which include an interactive map of the benches along the entire 22-mile Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. The map features information about dedications, bench type, and condition of the bench.

Her work also tackled updating our Wallkill Valley Rail Trail map for the new brochure, which will be available in print Memorial Day weekend and can be seen online now. Joppenbergh Mountain also needed a new map to include the latest trails that were built in November.

Jackie completed the new Joppenbergh Mountain Trail map and the latest version is now hanging at the trailhead and is viewable on our webpage. Jackie also started an invasive species inventory project in the Harcourt-Nyquist Nature Sanctuary in New Paltz where she mapped out some early spring invasive species such as Garlic Mustard and Multi-flora Rose.

Finally, she helped research and write our species spotlight articles in our monthly Field Notes, which helped her learn more about our native and invasive species and how they interact with each other and the ecosystem. You can check out our May Species Spotlight here.


When asked what takeaways she gained from working with us, Jackie said, “While interning at the Wallkill Valley Land Trust, I have learned the importance of conservation work. I recognize how our actions can affect the environment in a negative way, but I’ve also learned how much good is being done by organizations such as the Wallkill Valley Land Trust to help protect land.”

“I have gained a new perspective about the relationship between the environment and people,” she said. “It’s crucial to set aside land to prevent future degradation, but it’s also important to connect people with nature. Creating open spaces is great not just for recreation and enjoyment, but to also teach people its value and all the benefits we receive from the environment.”

Jackie is graduating this spring from SUNY New Paltz with a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and a minor in Business Administration. We wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.

Photo: Jackie LaPlante at Nyquist-Harcourt Nature Sanctuary.