What’s Growing at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens – Hands-on Learning

What’s Growing at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens – Hands-on Learning

By Melanie Priesnitz Conservation Horticulturist

While many Acadia students spent the last four months away from Wolfville seeking new experiences through travel or summer jobs abroad, some students decided to broaden their horizons by getting to know their own campus. Samantha Durno (BSc BIO ENVS 2017) and Rebecca Dodge (BSc BIO ENVS 2019) worked as Native Plant Conservationists and Interpreters and discovered how rewarding getting to know what’s happening in your own backyard can be.

Before spending their summer working at the Botanical Gardens, the students had only a cursory understanding of the work that we do here. They left with a greater understanding of environmental education, heritage preservation, forest ecology, ecosystems, native plants, how to get a group of camp kids excited about plants while not drowning them, and the great need for conservation of the Acadian forest region.

Rebecca is a taking a double major in Biology and Environmental Science and is enrolled in Acadia’s Co-operative Education program. She shared with us that she felt as though she would be a better scientist for having worked outside in the elements learning first hand how ecosystems work. She went on to explain, “this role has really helped to create hands-on connections between my degree and future career. It helped solidify concepts learned from school about plants, soils, sunlight, space and nutrient availability, water management and pollination and gave me a much broader sense of how everything in the environment works together as a whole.” This fall, Rebecca is going on to another Co-op work placement at the Kentville Research Centre, where she’ll be working as a Landscape Ecology Research Assistant and helping to catalogue and study native bee populations.

Both Samantha and Rebecca immersed themselves in learning while performing their summer jobs at Acadia. They brought a constant curiosity to their work, often stopping to investigate a new plant, insect, fungus, or lichen. Samantha is going on to obtain her advanced diploma in Geographic Sciences at NSCC’s Centre of Geographic Sciences in the fall. She hopes to work in the field of environmental consulting or wetland restoration in the future. She enjoyed the hands-on learning that occurred while working outside in the habitats at the Botanical Gardens. She feels that her work experience gave her “a better understanding of how ecosystems work together.”


While we are sad to say good-bye to two such well-rounded, hardworking students, we are excited to watch Samantha and Rebecca thrive in their new environments this fall. We know that they both have great futures ahead of them and are so pleased that they chose Acadia University to help them on their journeys.  Thank you to the Heritage Canada Young Canada Works Program for providing funding to allow these two students the opportunity to work at our living museum at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens.

Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens
Acadia University