When Emily Ellingson, the new curator and assistant director of Polly Hill Arboretum, began work this fall it was something of a homecoming. In 2013, she worked there as a curatorial intern.

“It was just a really fun place to intern at that time,” she said on a recent morning at the arboretum in West Tisbury. “I loved living on the Island…[the arboretum] is just a really special place and I just felt that as soon as I started working here. And a lot of that was because of the people that worked here but also the legacy that Polly Hill left.”

Ms. Ellingson said she has always been interested in plants, beginning as a child growing up in Minnesota.

“I spent a lot of time outside,” she said. “I basically lived in my crab apple tree outside the front yard.”

But she never expected she could make a living out of her passion until after college. She graduated from St. Olaf College in 2009 with a degree in biology and environmental studies and then headed to Washington state to do botany surveys for the forest service, she said.

“I think that was what really changed things for me. My job was to learn [about] plants and read the landscape.”

Ms. Ellingson first visited the Vineyard 2011 while working at Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum in Boston. She took a tour of Polly Hill and immediately fell in love with the plants, people and history of the arboretum, she said.

The arboretum began with a few seeds sewn by Polly Hill back in 1958. — Mark Alan Lovewell

She returns to the Island now from Kentucky, where she was the curator at the University of Kentucky’s arboretum. Getting the curator job at Polly Hill was a dream come true, she said. On top of her affinity for the people who work there, Ms. Ellingson said she enjoyed the strong sense of community she felt on the Island.

“I’ve been here two months and multiple times I’ve run into people that I know…just at random places,” she said. “I was on a plane with someone who was a volunteer at the arboretum and I really like that and I think that’s really important right now.”

Polly Hill Arboretum started as an experiment by its namesake, who in 1958 at the age of 50 planted her first seeds on her family’s land. She soon began sprouting plants others thought couldn’t survive on the Island and recording everything.

“[Polly Hill] kept meticulous records, it’s just so amazing to look at,” Ms. Ellingson said. “You get to actually look back at Polly Hill’s typing in these cards and all the notes that she wrote about the plants and then maybe how they were doing. This arboretum just embodies that spirit of scientific inquiry and the love of plants and landscape.”

The 72-acre arboretum was established as a nonprofit in 1998.

Ms. Ellingson said that curating sits at the intersection of three passions of hers: plants, organization and people.

“That’s one of the things I love about working in public gardens, is that it really combines a lot of my interests,” she said.

The arboretum became a nonprofit in 1998. — Mark Alan Lovewell

She also loves sharing the arboretum with the public.

“Public gardens exist not just for conservation purposes or for themselves, but for people to experience them and so working with plants is fun, but also to be able to make them available and interpret them for others to appreciate them,” she said.

Ms. Ellingson added that she is excited about continuing the arboretum’s legacy as a place for scientific exploration while also serving as a link between the public and the Island’s ecology.

“We’ve always done a really good job of connecting people to plants,” she said. “Moving forward we want to be a gold standard of scientific inquiry. I’m just really excited to grow plants, grow more plants…just continually make advancements in plant care and caring for the land.”

Having been on the job for just a few months Ms. Ellingson noted that she is still learning about the Island’s ecology, and also what it means to be a year-round resident.

“I’m using this time to try to go to as many preserves as possible and beaches, the places you can’t really go in the summer,” she said.