PHA Curatorial Interns: Where Are They Now?

Posted December 15th, 2017


Matt collecting rare oak specimens in Alabama

MATT LOBDELL (2008 Curatorial Intern)
Education: University of Delaware, Newark, DE, Master of Science in Plant and Soil Science, 2013 • Kenyon College, Gambier, OH, Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, 2007 
Current Title: Head of Collections and Curator, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL, and Research Associate, Polly Hill Arboretum. “I am pleased to continue my association with PHA as a research associate. Having grown up on the Island, I frequently return to visit and continue work on joint research projects that further PHA’s collection goals and my professional interests.”
Arboretum reflections: “I had no exposure to the field of public horticulture until taking an internship at PHA. After working for a few months, I became passionate about plant diversity and determined to find a career path that would further my interest while sharing this passion with others. The internship allowed me to refine my horticultural abilities while also training in curatorial procedures. Traditional university horticulture and botany programs that focus on cultivation and field taxonomy are shrinking, leaving the burden of training to arboreta and botanic gardens. Supporting this internship will ensure that the public garden world can provide the training necessary to keep well-curated plant collections alive for future generations.”


Jaime takes in the pungent fragrance of the southern magnolia

JAIME MORIN FRYE (2012 Curatorial Intern)
Education: Clemson University, Clemson, SC, Bachelor of Science in Horticulture, 2011
Current Title: Plant Records Specialist, The Garden at Newfields, Indianapolis, IN
Arboretum reflections: “The curatorial internship offers unique experiences in curatorial practices, plant recording, plant collecting, collections management, and numerous other skills that are rarely touched on in other horticultural internships. Ultimately the curatorial internship led me to discover my love of plants, their stories, and how they are managed in a public garden. Supporting the internship is a wonderful opportunity to continue developing leaders in the curatorial and plant records fields. I never would have discovered my passion for plants, met so many wonderful colleagues, or developed into the professional that I am today if not for PHA’s curatorial internship.”


Emily working on her endangered hemlock project

EMILY ELLINGSON (2013 Curatorial Intern)
Education: University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, Master of Science in Applied Plant Science (Plant Breeding and Genetics), Museum Studies minor, 2017 • St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN, Bachelor of Arts in Biology, Environmental Studies concentration, 2009
Current Title: Curator and Native Plants Collection Manager, The Arboretum, State Botanical Garden of Kentucky, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Arboretum reflections: “I cannot overstate the impact that the curatorial internship had on me professionally and personally. I not only gained confidence in my practical horticulture and landscape management skills, but I learned the methods of curatorial work. Learning and being involved in plant conservation at PHA led me to pursue a master’s degree focused on conservation genetics and horticulture. All this led to my current position, and I have no doubt that being at PHA as a curatorial intern helped me land this job. The collections, plant records, and history of PHA are a unique combination that can teach future curators how to be organized and curious plantspeople.”


Amanda presents her thesis this past June at the American Public Gardens Association meeting in Hamilton, Ontario.

AMANDA WILKINS (2014 Curatorial Intern)
Education: Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, Master of Science, Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants, 2016 • North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, Bachelor of Science, Horticulture Science, 2013
Current Title: Curator of Collections, Mobile Botanical Gardens, Mobile, AL
Arboretum reflections: “The PHA collections helped me build valuable curatorial and collections management skills I hadn’t had a chance to delve into. I believe supporting the curatorial internship position is one of the most important things the Arboretum can do for the future of public gardens and arboreta. I know I speak for more than myself when I say that the curatorial internship is uniquely equipped to develop and educate some of the best up-and-coming public garden professionals. Its unique location on Martha’s Vineyard helps bring home the challenges of balancing the conservation of an island flora with a horticultural collection.”


Tory verifying and labeling specimens in the field

VICTORIA (TORY) STEWART (2015 Curatorial Intern)
Education: University of Edinburgh, Scotland, Master of Science in Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants, September (current) • Connecticut College, New London, CT, Bachelor of Arts in Botany, 2015
Arboretum reflections: “The curatorial internship was my first real experience in living collections management and curatorial work in public gardens, and it was a formative experience for me. Through my first-hand experience at PHA, I realized a particular interest in plant records, curation, and taxonomy that informed my later work experience and ultimately led to my current course of study at the University of Edinburgh.”


Kady in Jerusalem, Israel

KATHERINE (KADY) WILSON (2016 Curatorial Intern)
Education: Smith College, Northampton, MA, Bachelor of Science in Plant Biology, 2014
Current Title: Curatorial scholar at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens in Israel in 2017, and in 2018 moving on to the Palestine Natural History Museum as a curatorial fellow. “I will be helping this new botanic garden adopt a plant records database and developing best management practices for plant collections curation.”
Arboretum reflections: “Polly Hill Arboretum showed me that it was possible for a small institution (or even a single private citizen) to keep thorough records from the beginning. Not only possible, but necessary! Polly’s insistence on high standards were what made the Arboretum possible, and they continue to be an inspiration as I bring this philosophy with me wherever I go. PHA’s strengths in both education and curation make the internship a great gift to the botanic garden world. It’s the perfect combination of intensive education and real work experience; this internship truly prepares the budding plant records person for work in public gardens.”

One Response to “PHA Curatorial Interns: Where Are They Now?”

  1. philippe de spoelberch says:

    Great to read all of this and happy that you should be training future curators and possibly conservationist.

Leave a Reply