Amanda Ives: Teaching — and learning — with Maine Audubon

Amanda Ives has always been outdoorsy. She remembers her childhood vacations and outdoor summer camp adventures as formative times in her life, and influential in her decision to pursue conservation as a career. As the 2022 Davis Intern at the Fields Pond Audubon Nature Center, Ives had the opportunity to communicate that love for the outdoors to a new generation — and learn some new things for herself.

Ives says that growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, and later in Newburyport, Massachusetts, through her high school years, her family always found ways to spend time in nature, even when they “lived in suburbia.” Ives describes herself as a “summer camp kid” who started attending annual sleepaway camps when she was 10. Summer camp not only allowed her to spend more time outdoors, but also to form a community around outdoor activities and spaces. 

When Ives got to UMaine, the wildlife ecology major called her. Though most of her UMaine experience has been virtual due to the pandemic, Ives says that the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology always made an effort to make classes interactive with safe outdoors meetups. One of her favorite classes has been Wildlife Field Survey, a two-week intensive May term class that, during the pandemic, involved doing field work in Orono.

“It was the most intense class I’ve ever taken,” Ives says. “We had to be out in the field at 4 a.m. most days. We took samples of river invertebrates in the stream with anadromous fish to see if they were bringing in nutrients from the ocean and how that might have affected the invertebrates living there. It was really cool to do field experiments and student-led research.”

Ives also had the opportunity to visit Fields Pond Audubon Nature Center through class her freshman year. She was enamored; the facility reminded her of sanctuaries she had visited with her family.

When Ives saw the open Davis Intern position in March 2022, she applied. She touted her educational experience as well as her volunteer experience with the University Volunteer Ambulance Corps, which more than prepared her for handling cuts, scrapes and summer camp-sized crises. 

Weeks later, she was hired.

Throughout the rest of her spring 2022 semester, Ives would stop by once or twice a week to work on small jobs, helping out with a youth birding club, supplying the gift shop and the like. As soon as the summer started, her educational and research duties were in full swing, as she monitored loon nests, took water samples of the pond and led summer camp programs, which were the “highlight of [her] summer.”

“It’s a cool experience for them outside of school that’s still educational and could inspire them to get into environmental sciences,” Ives says.

David Lamon, manager of the Fields Pond Audubon Nature Center, says Ives was able to take on the many roles required of her in the internship. 

“At Maine Audubon, we have a mixed bag mission,” Lamon says. “We have education as a big piece of it, but so is conservation science and advocacy. She fit in all those pretty well.”

Lamon notes that when he had a freak accident tearing his calf muscle while playing with kids at a program off-site, Ives easily took the reins. 

“She ran the center. She was here to greet the public at opening and closing, and checking in via phone or Zoom,” Lamon says. “For an undergraduate, that’s pretty darn good that she was able to jump in there.”

Lamon says he was most impressed, though, with her willingness to adapt to the educational element of the role.

“She’s not an education major; that’s really not her bag, so her willingness to do that was great,” Lamons says. “She was involved in all these pieces which were more in her wheelhouse for her major, and she did that just as well and her willingness for working with kids.”

Ives says there is a certain art to coming up with activities that kids will enjoy. She says that most of the kids’ favorite activity was a day that revolved around loons, with a scavenger hunt, a viewing of the Fields Pond Audubon Center’s taxidermied loons and a field trip to view the live loons at the pond through binoculars.

Of course, she says being able to bounce ideas off of Lamon, her co-worker, Melissa Gallagher, and her own mother — who all have backgrounds in education — was extremely helpful.

Even as Ives’ senior year at UMaine started up in the fall, she has continued working at Fields Pond, running after-school programs and even teaching AP environmental science students at Bangor High School how to take water samples. She says that though she still isn’t sure exactly what she wants to do after she graduates in the spring with her degree in wildlife ecology and concentration in conservation biology, the internship at Fields Pond has helped guide her in how she may be able to get involved with the many facets of conservation.

“I’ve been looking into jobs in policy and public interaction,” Ives says. “Some of the positions I’m looking into are fieldwork and public outreach combined. A lot of conservation work is in that, so I’m excited. All of that together will be what I want to do.”

Contact: Sam Schipani,