Meet a Master Watershed Steward Trainee; Rachel Rosenfeld Speaks About Her Experiences

In the December newsletter, we introduced the Master Watershed Steward Program, and praised our latest class of trainees. This month we speak with Rachel Rosenfeld, Stream Water Program Assistant with the Lower Merion Conservancy.

What inspired you to work and volunteer in this field?

I have always felt a strong connection to nature. Growing up, my father would take me hiking in the Appalachians and my mother taught me to appreciate the beauty of birds and plants. Throughout my life, I have donated countless hours to organizations and community service projects that aimed to better the environment. I’ve helped organize Earth Days, participated in local clean-ups, built garden displays, planted trees and cared for injured wildlife. Working outside in the sunlight and fresh air is the best feeling in the world!

What do you enjoy most about your stream monitoring work?

Getting my feet wet! I love my rainboots! Being able to wade into the stream and feel the cool water as it rushes downstream is wonderful. My monitoring sites are public locations, mostly in parks, and are full of interesting wildlife during the warmer months. This a great position for avid photographers and bird watchers. While stream monitoring, I have witnessed some pretty amazing birds up-close as well as the subtle changes over time to the stream habitat. Best of all, the Creek Watcher role helps interested citizens have a better understanding of the causes and effects of human activity on an aquatic ecosystem.

What did you enjoy most about the Master Watershed Steward training?

Where to begin? I cannot say enough good things about this program!  The topics covered were well thought out and expertly handled. The instructors were incredible resources of knowledge and very approachable if you didn’t understand something. Also, the trips to water treatment plants were great because they allowed the trainees to see a few real world applications.  Overall, not only was the program a fantastic refresher of my college coursework, but it greatly expanded my career network, introduced new topics and reignited my passion for solving environmental issues. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in being more involved in ecological initiatives.

What project (s) are you taking on as a Master Watershed Steward in Training?

Last fall, I helped do a clean-up with Friends of the Wissahickon in Fairmount Park. More recently, I have been attending green committee meetings and offering my expertise, along with several other MWSs, for a proposed park in a Lower Gwynedd Township. I also signed up to give lectures on macroinvertebrates and certified wildlife habitats as part of the MWS program’s speaker series. I cannot wait for the weather to warm up, so I can start assisting with tree plantings!

Can you tell us about your position with the Lower Merion Conservancy?

My position is the Stream Watch Program Assistant. I am primarily responsible for conducting weekly physical and chemical tests for several sites along Mill Creek and the East Branch of the Indian Creek, which feeds into Cobbs Creek. The work includes daily sensor calibrations, field work and database management. After collecting the water quality data, I get to analyze my findings in graphs and charts.  The results can be very interesting. Another part of my job is to identify and sort preserved macroinvertebrates by order and family using a microscope. These insect larvae are the best indicators of stream health.

When you are not volunteering or working, what are some of the things you like to do?

I love to bake and cake decorate! I mostly bake for fun, but now and then, I participate in baking competitions for the added challenge. Yoga, traveling and photography are a few of my many interests. Discovering new restaurants in Philly counts too, right?

What advice would you give to someone interested in being more involved with environmental issues in their communities?

I would tell them to watch for upcoming community service days, lectures, seminars and volunteer training programs pertaining to the environment. Local newspapers and free publications like GRID and the Sustainable Business Network Directory as well as social media are great resources. Follow the major environmental organizations in your area because they will post events and share articles about green issues you care about. Sign up for email lists and e-newsletters. Attend introductory talks, green festivals and local presentations, where you will meet other like-minded folks that share your common interests. Volunteering is the best way to give back to your community and make a positive difference for the environment, so don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.

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