Amidst the stately homes and ivy-strewn walls of the Riverdale section of the Bronx sits the Wave Hill Garden and Public Center, a 28-acre estate with sophisticated formal gardens alongside native parkland that’s open to the public.

As with any urban habitat, invasive species, both flora and fauna, are a constant problem for caretakers. Kylie Rothwell and Julia Duljas, natural science majors at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), recently worked alongside those caretakers to learn about these species and habitat restoration.

Rothwell, a junior who interned at Wave Hill the fall of 2018, created the internship for herself. The center has a robust educational program for teens, particularly during the summer, but they didn’t have a college-level internship program. With the encouragement of Mark Botton, Ph.D., biology professor and co-director of the Environmental Science Project, Rothwell took the initiative to send an email and set up a meeting; soon she was hired to work on various research projects, and quickly thereafter was asked to go outdoors on native species restoration with high schoolers.

“At first, it was discouraging because we would go and we would spend three hours [removing invasive species]and it would look great for that week and then we’d come back next week and do it all over again,” she said. “But it is really interesting because high school students didn’t know about the problem. So, I think it is good to spread awareness even if we’re still working on what are the best ways to kind of combat it.”

Duljas asked Rothwell for the contact info and soon found herself working in environmental education too, coordinating various high school programs and taking students out onto the grounds to pull out Italian Arum, a plant whose red flowers make them easy to spot in the forest’s wintertime grey.

Both women are planning to pursue careers in environmental science.

Alix Cotumaccio, Wave Hill’s director of education, encouraged Fordham students with “the passion and drive” to reach out about potential opportunities. She said that her department may not always have capacity or budget to support an internship, but there are other opportunities within Wave Hill.

Take the Initiative or Tap in to Existing Resources

Rothwell and Duljas’ experience is exactly the kind that Laura Auricchio, Ph.D., dean of Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), gets excited by.

Auricchio said the University works hard to provide opportunities through a variety of programs to all undergraduate students. She encouraged students to contact Career Services, as well as to strike out on their own.

“Students know best what they want, whenever they see a chance they should feel prepared to create their own opportunities and we’ll be here to support them,” she said.

Summer Research Grant Deadline is Approaching

Though spring has yet to arrive, it’s already high time to start planning for summer break. For some undergraduate students, that means thinking about upcoming summertime research and internship deadlines.

The deadlines for several opportunities are fast approaching, such as the March 6 deadline to apply for the Fordham College at Lincoln Center Dean’s Summer Research Grant. The grants are open to STEM and liberal arts students alike, and are driven by what the students want to explore, said Auricchio.

“These grants are not for students to serve as research assistants to help faculty; it’s the other way around. Faculty help students in their research,” she said. “Students come up with the ideas, and they find faculty mentors to help them see their project to completion.”

In addition to research opportunities, paid internships provide real-world learning opportunities, said Auricchio. She noted that employers increasingly view internship experience as equally important as academic credentials. She acknowledged, however, that many internships pay far too low—if at all—for some students to be able to take them on.

Auricchio recently teamed with Maura Mast, Ph.D., dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill, to fund four internships at the New-York Historical Society. The internships include working in IT, the communications department, the society’s renowned library, or the museum department.

“We’re committed to ensuring that students who cannot afford to work for no pay have the same opportunities as students who gain that kind of work experience and engage with the tremendous resources of New York City,” she said.

Real-World Urgency

For Duljas, engaging with a public garden in the northwest corner of the city gave her the chance to address a pressing issue in the natural world.

“We’re experiencing rapid extinctions all over the world because these invasive species are coming in and out-competing the native species, and that threatens other ecosystems—everything’s connected,” she said. “Having the high school kids go out into the woodlands of Wave Hill and actually see the problem for themselves really helps them understand the issue at hand.”


Tom Stoelker is senior staff writer and visual media coordinator for Fordham News. After fifteen years as a freelance designer, Tom shifted his focus to writing and photography. He graduated from Lehman College, CUNY where he majored in English literature and photography and he received his master's in journalism from Columbia University. His work has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Wall Street Journal, and The Architect's Newspaper, where he was associate editor.