Nature & Ecology

TerraCorps & The Trustees

TerraCorps member Isabel Bronson reflects on two years with The Trustees.

A person in a baseball cap and black jacket holds a fluffy white peregrine falcon chick.

Isabel poses with a peregrine falcon chick at Monument Mountain

Back in 2022, I joined the Trustees Ecology Department as a TerraCorps Land Stewardship Coordinator (TC LSC). As a recent college graduate, I was looking for a way to launch my career within the environmental conservation sector, gain work experience within a local land trust/environmentally focused non-profit, and give back to the land I grew up on in my home state of Massachusetts. The TerraCorps program provided the perfect opportunity for me to do just that. 

TerraCorps is an AmeriCorps-affiliated environmental non-profit, placing AmeriCorps service members with host sites across Massachusetts and Rhode Island that have a focus on topics such as environmental conservation, agriculture, land stewardship, and community education. In Massachusetts, TerraCorps is supported in part by the Massachusetts Service Alliance.

The Trustees was an organization I had long been familiar with. Growing up in the Berkshires, I’ve enjoyed hiking Monument Mountain and Bartholomew’s Cobble, exploring Dry Hill and Questing, and diving into the history held within Naumkeag, the Mission House, and Ashley House. So, it was an exciting opportunity to be selected for the TC LSC position with The Trustees Ecology Team, working under Lead Inland Ecologist, Julie Richburg. While a member typically serves just one 11-month term with their host site, I enjoyed my time and service work at The Trustees so much that I opted to return after my first year for a second term!

A qoman in a vest and jeans sits on the floor with several children helping them with a craft.

Isabel makes pollinator seed balls with an after-school girls' science club.

A woman in black pants and a white sweater holds a small brown bird on her index finger while smiling. Trees line a path in the background.

Isabel poses with a Savannah Sparrow in hand while learning about Mist Netting

My TerraCorps terms were largely focused on building and expanding community science efforts. These programs allowed me to engage community members across the state with avian and general biodiversity conservation and protection. Over the past two years, I was able to:  

  1. Expand our volunteer grassland bird monitoring program. With the help of over 60 volunteers, we monitor 1,000 acres of Trustees-owned grassland habitat for grassland-dependent birds such as Bobolinks, Savannah Sparrows, and Eastern Meadowlarks. The data collected through volunteer point-count surveys helps us assess populations of these ground-nesting grassland birds and aids in informing habitat management.  
  2. Organize nest box monitoring efforts. This program is aimed at supporting populations of cavity-nesting bird species, including Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, and American Kestrels. With the help of volunteers, we monitor over 200 nesting boxes and assess and track the reproductive success of native birds in each one.  
  3. Develop a biodiversity monitoring initiative on iNaturalist. The 27,000+ acres held within The Trustees portfolio are home to a mosaic of diverse ecological communities, from the floodplain forests and calcareous wetland communities of the Berkshires to the scrub oak and pitch pine barrens of Cape Cod and the Islands. Through this long-term community science biodiversity monitoring project, we hope to develop a better understanding of the breadth of species that call our properties home and to monitor the impacts that climate change and our greater anthropogenic footprint are having on species/community composition. 
Four blue eggs sit in a nest.

Bluebird Eggs in a Nest Box observed by Isabel

Two white and pink flowers from above.

Painted Trillium recorded by Isabel during a Bioblitz

A black bird with a yellow cap sits on a white fence post.

Bobolink Observed by a volunteer during a birds survey. Photo Credits: Jay Dia

Running and developing these programs afforded me incredible learning opportunities that included project management, grant writing, environmental education, presentations and public speaking, fieldwork, plant and animal identification, and habitat management.  

As I end my time as a TerraCorps member with the Trustees, I’m excited by the impact I see my service projects are having and I’m so grateful for all the knowledge that Julie, the Ecology Team, and everyone I have had the opportunity to work with within the organization has imparted and shared. Of course, I also owe a great deal to all my wonderful volunteers as well, whose enthusiasm and passion for the projects I have gotten to run is unmatched.  

To the next TerraCorps member who is lucky enough to take this position, you will undoubtedly have a wonderful experience, learn immensely, and get to contribute to a great organization! 

A field sprawls on a cloudy day. Three trees dot the right side of the image.

Isabel captures a view of Field Farm while monitoring grassland birds

You Might Also Enjoy

Join the Trustees

Enjoy 120 sites featuring inspired trails, historic homes, beautiful gardens, farms, summer camps and more.
Become a Member

Lend a Hand

Join a community passionate about a sustainable future and engaged in diverse projects across the state.

Support Our Work

We rely on your generous support to protect the irreplaceable landscapes and landmarks of Massachusetts.