The spring 2013 Nicholas Holt Challenge Scholarship award recently went to three Wildlife Biology majors at Unity College. The funding from the award will give the recipients the support they need in order to fulfill various internship opportunities on each coast of the United States and at a wildlife orphanage in Africa.

The awarded students were chosen by a panel who looked at the submissions with several criteria in mind including: a commitment to academic excellence; a distinctive proposal that bears a meaningful relationship to the student’s future career goals and service aspirations; a project that, without funding, would likely be unattainable to the student; a strong commitment to service; and a demonstrated record of involvement within the Unity College community.

The three spring 2013 Nicholas Holt Challenge Scholarship awardees are:

Kathryn Cobban ’14
Cobban will be pursuing an internship with the Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, the Holt Scholarship allowing for funding various costs associated with her position. At the Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage, Cobban will be involved in many aspects of wildlife biology and wildlife care field work including: helping with general maintenance of the park and enclosures; taking part in research and field surveys; feeding and caring for injured, sick and abused animals; participating in educational public presentations; and assisting in capturing and releasing animals. The scholarship will help Cobban gain the useful skills and knowledge that she will need in order to pursue her future career plans of becoming a certified wildlife rehabilitator or manager. In addition to the duties that are required of the interns at the Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage, Cobban will be volunteering her time to perform an individual, self-designed service project in order to benefit the organization and the community. Upon her return from her internship, Cobban plans on working to raise money to donate to the Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage, giving her an opportunity to spread the knowledge that she will have gained to others. Cobban will present her internship experience, fundraising efforts, and service project at the Unity College Student Conference in the Fall Semester of 2014.

Outside of her major, Cobban is involved in other aspects of the wildlife care field, currently serving as the secretary of the Wildlife Care and Education club, and as a member of the Unity College Chapter of the Wildlife Society.

Melinda Gray ’15
With the financial assistance of the Holt Scholarship, award recipient Gray will be able to fulfill an internship position at the Wild Horse Sanctuary in Shingletown, California, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of America’s wild horses. Currently, there are major controversies regarding where wild horses should be able to roam and what to do with them, many horses being captured and put to slaughter as a result of people considering the horses to be a nuisance. To date, the Wild Horse Sanctuary has rescued a group of 80 wild horses and provides approximately 5000 acres of land for wild horses to run free.

In her role at the Wild Horse Sanctuary, Gray will: expand her knowledge of wild and domestic horses by assisting with daily horse care and operations; help increase public awareness of the issues of conservation of wild horses through media outreach and education; work on research projects that determine the social structure and biology of wild horses; and work to keep the Sanctuary a safe place for the horses to co-exist with other wild animals such as black bears, mountain lions, and gray foxes. This internship position directly aligns with Gray’s long-term future professional endeavors of working with wild horses, and will give her the opportunity to be involved with an organization that has the goal of providing a working model to the public of how wild horses land should properly be managed.

In keeping with her deep interest in wildlife, Gray will continue to be an active member of the Wildlife Club at Unity College and after her internship plans on making efforts to increase public awareness of wild horses through future presentations and speaking engagements.

Brittany Leick ’14
Leick received the award for her proposal of a research and species mapping project, “Lynx-Bobcat Hybridization: A New Threat to Canada Lynx.” Using the presence of bobolynx hybrids (bobcat and lynx) as an example, previous studies have shown the impact of climate change on habitats. Leick will use the research for her mapping project, specifically looking at how the hybridization of species could be particularly detrimental to the Canada lynx given: the presence of breeding competition will likely lower the opportunity for increase in population size; a decrease in prey availability could arise; the strong potential for an increase in competition for habitat. The goal of Leick’s project is to create a map using lynx and bobcat parental species’ habitats in order to predict locations in which hybrids would likely be found. The data from Leick’s research could then be used in future studies to gain a better understanding of all species involved and to determine how to better protect a species that may be in danger of extinction due to climate change.

The Holt Scholarship funding for her project will give Leick the ability to attend fur auctions and broaden her relationships with trappers. Through the creation of these relationships, Leick will be able to present her thesis, ideally increasing the number of trappers willing to share their DNA samples with her, as well as the sharing of information on where the trappers obtained the samples. It is through knowing the locations in Maine where the bobcats were trapped that Leick will be able to create a map of habitat overlap.

About the Nicholas Holt Challenge Scholarship Fund
Unity College is home to the Nicholas Holt Challenge Scholarship Fund, a gift made possible by the Holt family in collaboration with the Maine Community Foundation.The College was a major interest in Nick Holt’s life since 1973. He spent more than twenty years working toward accreditation of its strong environmental teaching program. Holt was an architect, family man, and engaged in a variety of social causes. His family is pleased to honor his passion and commitment to Unity with this scholarship fund. The purpose of the fund is to support juniors and seniors in challenging, experiential learning projects that are self-initiated, curriculum-based and approved by an academic adviser.

In recent years Unity College has gained national attention for a variety of achievements including its focus on sustainability science; its ground-breaking “green” innovations such as the award-winning TerraHaus, the first student residence on a college or university campus built to the Passive House standard, the most energy efficient building standard in the world; and for being the first college in the United States to divest from investments in fossil fuels, igniting a growing national movement in higher education.

Unity College is a private college in rural Maine that provides dedicated, engaged students with a liberal arts education that emphasizes the environment and natural resources. Unity College graduates are prepared to be environmental stewards, effective leaders, and responsible citizens through active learning experiences within a supportive community.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013