PGC Internship Launches Career

Much of Philipstown Garden Club's fundraising efforts are devoted to support the Internship Program.  At the October 20th, 2019 PGC General Membership Meeting we were reminded of just how important PGC Internships can be in influencing young lives when former intern Brian Rubino addressed the meeting to talk about the opportunities his internships had opened for a career.

"My First Internship was at Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary where I worked with Rich Anderson, Eric Lind, and Connie Mayer-Bakall. This gave me meaningful professional and personal experiences and introduced me to conservation, especially regarding birds. We conducted population censuses using bird song identification and would start at 4:30 in the morning, which is tough for a high school student. That’s the best time to hear bird calls, such as from the Cardinal, and the Ovenbird. The task is to count how many individual birds you hear and of what species.  We’d listen for 50 - 60 different species of birds.  We also did bird banding. Once again, we’d be up very early, set up fine mesh nets in and around Constitution Marsh.  We could only do this in May and June because birds have a high metabolism and you have to be mindful of them not struggling too long in the nets or they can go into shock due to the temperature. It’s one thing to see a Common Yellow Throat, but it’s another thing to hold one.  This is a warbler species that migrates, and it was a great opportunity as a high school student to be part of something bigger.  The goal of the internship is to get people to fall in love with the outdoors and engage with the environment. 

"My Second Internship was at Stonecrop Gardens and at the beginning I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a gardener! I worked under Robin Young and the Director Caroline Burgess.  They took me seriously as an employee and my tasks were to take part in weeding, watering, fertilizing, harvesting and propagating, especially Coleus varieties, working in the greenhouse.  I was able to talk with other employees about possible careers, and to wake up a little later, at 8:00 am. I appreciated how much they expected of me. 

  

"I then went to Cornell University where I majored in Biology, then moved to Environmental Sciences. At this point I had to take off time and I took a course in Permaculture in Costa Rica, where I got a Design Certificate. This led to a job with a small start-up company in New Windsor, New York which practiced Aquaponics: a mix of Hydoponics and Aquaculture.  The company was run by Michael Finnegan and Tom Endres. The process was to raise fish and use plants to filter water, imitating nature.  This job lasted 5 years and ended because it was difficult to achieve an organic price point without the organic label, which we needed to compete with non-organic products.  Basically, using organic processes, we needed to charge more, and the USDA has no organic certification which would have given us the advantage we needed to compete in the wholesale market. 

"At this point I went back to school to Iona College, where my father was a teacher and I could get a tuition break.  I majored in Environmental Studies and minored in Art.  This is a Catholic institution and I was required to take a religion course.  I learned that Father Thomas Berry talked about the crisis in the environment.  I received an award at graduation for a project involving a commitment to install tap water pure enough to eliminate the need for bottled water in the dining halls.  

"I then worked at Bear Mountain / Harriman State Park under Max Garfinkle, where we were involved in studying the Golden-winged Warbler: a species of special concern. This bird interbreeds with the Blue Winged Warbler.  For this job I was back to waking up early, before 5:00 am to get to the mostly inaccessible wetlands where the bird lives.  We would see black bears, and birds and plants of the wetlands, including native irises and plenty of high bush blueberry. 

 

"For the next stage in my career, I am looking at the Office of State Parks, and also at the Department of Environmental Conservation. 

"My PGC Internships not only furthered my love of nature, but also provided opportunities to learn from successful professionals in a variety of fields, which directly laid the groundwork of my career. "