Melissa Genoter: Finding a career in a love for Maine’s outdoors

Melissa Genoter’s experience at the app turned her love of the outdoors into an impactful research project — and a post-graduate career. Thanks to internships through the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions and the connections she made with fellow students through outdoors clubs, Genoter has established herself in Maine’s environmental work and will continue to work towards building a better environment.

When Genoter was looking at colleges, she had two main requirements: she wanted a school with a good environmental science program, and she wanted to be in Maine. Genoter grew up in Townsend, Massachusetts, but she had spent summers in Maine at her grandparents’ camp on Maranacook Lake.

Genoter wasn’t sure exactly where she wanted to go, though. Her parents were both alumni of UMaine, but she thought she might want to attend a small liberal arts college. 

When she visited UMaine for the first time, though, she knew she had found her place.

“When I was touring schools, people said, ‘You’ll just tour a school and it will feel like home,’ and UMaine was the first place that really felt like that,” Genoter said. “Everyone was so welcoming, and how beautiful campus was and the more it got down to crunch time I realized I had the most breadth of opportunities at UMaine, and career-wise, there’s a lot of connections. In the Ecology and Environmental Sciences program, they’re really good about offering internship and career opportunities. I like the opportunity to kind of try anything.” 

Genoter started college in 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She joined outdoors clubs to continue cultivating her love for the outdoors, but also to meet her classmates when indoor in-person interactions were limited. She joined the Backcountry Squatters and the Maine Outing Club. She got into rock climbing and spent time just enjoying all the outdoor experiences the UMaine campus has to offer.

“I made a group of friends early on that loved being outside,” Genoter said. “It was really special to be able to explore the university forest or go swimming in the river. That community that’s connected to the outdoors has been really a core part of my experience.”

Ironically, too, Genoter said that her parents met through the outdoors at UMaine in a class about outdoor preparedness.

“They met on a canoeing trip and now I’ve gotten to do it at UMaine and now I do the Kenduskeag race every year,’ Genoter laughs.

Genoter began converting her love for the outdoors into her academic life when she saw a posting for a research assistant position funded by the Mitchell Center to conduct a study on the economic value of lakes with Adam Daigneault, faculty fellow at the Mitchell Center and E.L. Giddings Associate Professor of Forest Policy & Economics. Genoter loves Maine lakes. Starting her senior year of high school, she worked for the Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed Youth Conservation Corps program, which she continued to do every summer throughout her college career — and has even watched some of the youth she mentored as a corps crew leader go on to attend UMaine.

Daigneault originally planned to hire a graduate student for the position, but Genoter’s passion made her the best person for the job.

“Our team initially thought that this would be a great project for an honors or masters student to contribute to, but Melissa’s application rose to the top given her background working with lake organizations here in Maine and interest in exploring both the ecological and economic aspects of lake use and management,” Daigneault said. “Her dedication to the project and emphasis on interdisciplinary research over the past two-plus years has resulted in a more robust and detailed final product than the team could have imagined.”

Genoter worked on the project for the rest of her college experience, but there was a lull her junior year when Daigneault went on sabbatical. Eager to keep developing her research skills, she took on another Mitchell Center internship through the Future Sustainability Leaders program working on climate resilient infrastructure with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

“It was really cool,” Genoter said. “I worked with a team of professors and Mitchell Center fellows assessing the needs of the state and contractors and what they need to make it easier to put in climate resilient infrastructure, like updating standards for stormwater infrastructure and living shorelines.”

She was also able to study abroad outside of Melbourne, Australia at Deakin University that year, which she said was a highlight of her UMaine experience and one of the reasons that drew her to Maine’s flagship university in the first place. 

“The UMaine study abroad program was very supportive,” Genoter said. “That was another draw, they had the best study abroad program of any of the schools that I looked at.”

Genoter has spent a lot of her senior year going to conferences to present the lake study, including as one of the keynote speakers at the on June 21 at the app at Farmington.

Genoter will graduate in the spring with a degree in environmental science with concentrations in earth and climate sciences, and sustainability policy and resource management, the latter of which surprised her as she moved through her undergraduate program.

“I didn’t know environmental economics was an option,” Genoter said. “[Associate professor] Caroline Noblet and Adam [Daigneault] really opened that up, also taking environmental law and policy with Sharon Tischer. There are so many classes that I absolutely fell in love with, especially areas of environmental law and economics.”

Genoter also has her dream job lined up after graduation. She met a representative from Haley Ward, a technical consulting firm headquartered in Bangor at the UMaine Career Fair and recently accepted a job as a project scientist in their environmental services line, helping apply environmental sciences to development, monitoring for contaminants and more.

“It’s pretty hard to break into entry level environmental consulting, but I was very fortunate because of my experiences at UMaine, I came in with years of experience. Especially working with DEP, I had a good idea of the regulatory landscape of the state,” Genoter said. “It’ll be a mix of office work and field work and I’ll be able to explore all the different areas of consulting. I can try everything and see what I really love and follow that path.”

Contact: Ruth Hallsworth, hallsworth@maine.edu