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Welshimer Postcard

On a tiny island in outer Muscongus Bay, Maine resides the first restored seabird colony. In the late 1800s, the Atlantic Puffins had been eliminated from their nesting islands off the coast of Maine. Enter a young scientist named Stephen Kress who in 1973 sought to restore the puffin to the island called Eastern Egg Rock. Those efforts, which included bringing a nesting pair from Newfoundland back to the island, have been successful. There are currently 300 breeding pairs calling the island home. It was the first test of a new theory called “social attraction” which uses decoys and mirrors to attract birds to a specific area. Other bird sites have copied this model and had similar success.

Amy teaching about puffins on a boat

If you want to learn more about Project Puffin and the conservation efforts of the Audubon Society, Amy Welshimer, (senior in Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management in the Outdoor Recreation option, and intern with the Seabird Institute in Rockland, Maine for summer 2024) can help you out.

“When I start talking about the puffins,” laughed Amy “I sometimes find myself using my ‘boat’ voice.” Amy’s voice and her passion for conservation and education are evident in every conversation.

Originally from Long Island, New York, Amy developed her love for the outdoors through vacations to the National Parks with her family. When she started looking at colleges, she was looking for school that offered a variety of options for majors, was close to home, and would offer her a place to find something that felt like hers. “I fell in love with the campus on my visit and knew Penn State was the place for me.”

Amy joined the Penn State Outing Club in her first week on campus and heard about RPTM from other members who were in the major. Her early connection with RPTM gave her plenty of time to get involved. “Once I was in, I wasn’t going to let any opportunities go.

Amy climbing a mountain

Amy built an impressive resume in RPTM. Starting with RPTM 230 (Teambuilding Facilitation) with Laurie McLaughlin at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, Penn State’s affiliate nature center and learning laboratory, Amy became involved in environmental education and leadership programs. She served as a counselor and, last semester, served as a learning group leader for Outdoor School. She helped with Shaver’s Creek’s annual Maple Harvest Festival. She participated in SEED semester (formerly known as Block semester). SEED (Student Engagement and Experiential Discovery) is an immersive semester at Shaver’s Creek that focuses on programming, environmental education, and resource management. Amy also served as a leader for Penn State Aurora, Penn State’s outdoor and expedition orientation program for students entering the university.

Amy holding a bird

In talking about her current internship with National Audubon Society’s Seabird Institute, Amy recalls she “learned about the Audubon Society on the Discovery Trip through SEED. I reached out to them to apply for internship before the position was even posted. I liked the blend of tourism and environmental education. I had the interview on a Friday and was offered the position on Monday.”

In her role at the Seabird Institute, she greets and guides visitors and assists with programs at the Project Puffin Visitor Center and Todd Wildlife Sanctuary. She works with the Island Research Coordinator and staff to assist with the remote field camps on the offshore islands. Finally, Amy serves as an interpreter and field naturalist on the commercial tour boats departing from New Harbor and Boothbay Harbor to Eastern Egg Rock. Hence, the boat voice.

Amy standing in front of a cabin building

Whether it be on land or on a boat, Amy shares the incredible story of the return of the puffin and the restoration of this seabird population with visitors to the area. Her knowledge and passion come through loud and clear as does her enthusiasm for the outdoors and the RPTM major.

“I would tell new students to start early. Take the jump. Take the leap. There are so many opportunities at Penn State, you can’t go wrong. Your passion will shine through.