SOUTH PORTLAND — As a marine science major, Josh Clukey has learned a lot about his chosen field in the classroom and on the water through his courses at Southern Maine Community College. This summer, he is applying that knowledge on a daily basis with the environmental organization Friends of Casco Bay.

As a student intern, Josh helped spearhead Friends of Casco Bay’s Nabbing Nitrogen project, overseeing 140 volunteers who took water samples from Portland Harbor to gauge nitrogen levels along the waterfront. He’s also helped monitor acidity levels on clam flats in Freeport, and he has been comparing two pH monitoring meters to determine which one is better for sediment testing.

Thanks to the collaborative partnership between SMCC and Friends of Casco Bay, Josh is getting the kind of hands-on experience that students dream of. He has worked with environmental scientists, learned to use high-tech equipment in the field and the lab and performed the type of practical science that one cannot carry out in the classroom.

“Familiarizing myself with this kind of work and networking with people in this field will eventually help lead to a job down the road,” Josh said.

SMCC and Friends of Casco Bay have a collaborative relationship that goes back more than two decades and provides opportunities way beyond internships for our students.

Of course, both SMCC and Friends have many partnerships with businesses, nonprofits, community organizations, individuals and others throughout the Portland area, Maine and beyond. But our connections with each other are numerous and long-standing, contributing to both student success and to the environmental health of Casco Bay.

Friends of Casco Bay’s offices are located on SMCC’s oceanside campus in South Portland. Friends’ first Casco Baykeeper – who acts as a high-profile advocate and serves as a watchdog for the environmental health of the bay – was Joe Payne, an SMCC graduate, as is Mike Doan, Friends’ research associate.

SMCC staff and faculty have served on Friends of Casco Bay’s board and committees through the years; conversely, Friends’ staff have served on SMCC committees and given guest lectures in numerous classes.

Most importantly, our relationship benefits both SMCC students and the waters of Casco Bay. The partnership between our two institutions contributes directly to student success, the No. 1 priority at SMCC.

SMCC students have taken part in Friends of Casco Bay’s storm drain stenciling projects, in which they stencil small reminders near storm drains about where those drains lead – to Casco Bay. Friends often takes students on its research vessel. In fact, Friends sold its former Baykeeper vessel, Donavan’s Delight, to SMCC for $1; it is now used for on-the-water classroom time for SMCC students.

Students who have served as water quality monitors for Friends of Casco Bay get hands-on experience while providing valuable information about the environmental health of Casco Bay. Years back, SMCC students even helped Friends of Casco Bay relocate lobsters during a major dredging project in Portland Harbor.

Science students are not the only students who benefit. Horticulture students get their hands dirty while landscaping around the Friends’ office building on the SMCC campus; they learn about landscaping practices that reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers, thus further protecting the health of the bay. And they’ve also participated in Friends’ Portland Flower Show exhibits and annual fundraising events.

SMCC’s mission is to transform lives and communities through education and training. Friends’ mission is to work with our community to protect the health of the bay. Through our partnership, students are gaining experience on the front lines, contributing to both missions.

Josh Clukey is the latest in a long line of SMCC students who have served as interns for Friends of Casco Bay. At least 25 students have done so since 1995.

For students such as Josh, the partnership between SMCC and Friends of Casco Bay exemplifies the nexus between education and applied science.

“One of the reasons I came to SMCC was to do this kind of applied science, in the field, hands-on,” he says. “This will help lead to my career development down the road.”

Building the next generation of scientists, stewards and involved citizens begins with working partnerships such as ours. We hope you will encourage such partnerships in your endeavors and support organizations and institutions that are actively engaged in providing real-world experience, such as the summer Josh has experienced with us.