The Island’s only state forest has a new chief steward this week, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation announced Wednesday.
Virginia Dautreuil, 35, started training Wednesday morning for her new role of superintendent of the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest, the 5,343-acre forest that sits in the center of the Island.
A Connecticut native, Ms. Dautreuil is the third person and first woman to hold the post.
“We are really thrilled to have her aboard,” said Jon Petersen, DCR district manager. “We feel really confident she is going to do a great job.”
The position was left vacant following the sudden death of John J. Varkonda in late December. Mr. Varkonda was 55 and had been the steward of the state forest for 26 years.
Before him, Manuel F. Correllus himself was steward of the former heath hen sanctuary for nearly 40 years.
Ms. Dautreuil said Wednesday that her love of conservation and ecology began on Cape Cod, where she spent summers growing up. Taking the job on the Vineyard seemed a perfect development, she said.
“It seemed like a really good match and I am really excited about it,” she said.
In her new role, she will oversee the Vineyard’s state forest as well as the state forest on Nantucket. The Vineyard forest protects the Island’s sole source aquifer, provides recreation, hunting and wildlife habitat.
Ms. Dautreuil holds an undergraduate degree in wildlife science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. While completing her undergraduate degree, she worked with the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, which conducts scientific research focused on marine mammals.
More recently, she worked with the Texas National Guard, where she held the role of civilian field biologist. This past September, she completed her master’s degree in aquatic biology, also in Texas. For the degree, she studied wildfire effects on aquatic systems.
Mr. Petersen said Ms. Dautreuil comes with great qualifications, including experience managing prescribed burns. “She just had terrific experience and then when we interviewed her she did a terrific job,” he said.
Ms. Dautreuil hopes to move to the Island with her husband, who is working at a bank this summer on Cape Cod. She said she has visited the Island several times, and has been reading a lot about the state forest.
She plans to come to the Island next week.
“I am really looking forward to moving out there and learning more about Martha’s Vineyard and becoming involved in the community,” she said.
Mr. Petersen said they have discussed the possibility of introducing interpretive programming to the state forest.
“She is going to be looking at the whole forest and seeing what opportunities it offers for recreation,” he said. “She will be able to take a fresh look at the forest.”