For the June issue of the Watershed Alliance, Meghan Rogalus had the chance to sit down and share her role as the watershed specialist for the Bucks County Conservation District (BCCD). In addition she has recently taken on a new role as the Poquessing Creek Watershed Monitoring Coordinator.
We hear you have a new role as Poquessing Watershed Coordinator, what are you doing in the Poquessing?
The Poquessing Creek is located in the Upstream Philadelphia cluster of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI), a project spearheaded by the William Penn Foundation. As the Poquessing Monitoring Coordinator, I am working with PEC, the Friends of the Poquessing Watershed (FOPW), and other cluster partners to ensure that the Poquessing completes the project requirements to collect water quality samples quarterly, macroinvertebrate samples annually and to engage the Poquessing Streamkeepers in visual monitoring of the watershed. Once restoration projects are completed we hope to see big improvements by comparing before and after water quality and macroinvertebrate community sampling up and downstream of project sites!
What is your role with the Poquessing Streamkeepers?
My role is to keep in touch with the Streamkeepers who are conducting visual monitoring at locations along the tributaries and main stem of the Poquessing and follow up where possible on issues they identify. The volunteers’ information is critical to obtain an overall impression of the health of the entire watershed. In addition I notify the volunteers of upcoming educational and work opportunities.
What else does a Conservation District Watershed Specialist do?
The duties of a Conservation District Watershed Specialist vary based on the needs/major sources of stream impairments within each county and the direction of each district’s board of directors. In general, the focus of the Watershed Specialist position is to improve the quality and quantity of the Commonwealth’s surface and groundwater resources through education and outreach, monitoring and implementation of restoration projects.
In Bucks County I provide technical assistance and information to individual residents, municipalities, nonprofits and school groups. A big focus of that is providing support and guidance to a number of watershed associations around the county and advising landowners on potential solutions and possible permit requirements for addressing streambank erosion. On behalf of BCCD, I apply and manage grant-funded environmentally beneficial projects. I also work closely with Mary Ellen Noonan, BCCD’s Environmental Educator, to support the district’s education and outreach efforts. Finally, I am the Bucks County point of contact for TreeVitalize Watersheds program, which provides funding for riparian forest restoration and basin naturalization projects throughout southeastern PA.
What environmental impacts are Bucks County watersheds facing?
The main environmental impacts facing Bucks County and the southeastern region are sedimentation of the stream channel and stormwater runoff due to increasing development pressures. Bucks County’s historic development patterns included infrastructure designed to move rainwater as quickly as possible away from houses to the nearest streams. This type of stormwater management results in “flashy” stream systems, which causes streambank erosion, impaired water quality and flooding concerns. Also, the removal of riparian vegetation and the threat of invasive plant species places additional stress. Streams lose protection from streambank erosion, are unable to filter pollutants and lack natural cooling and shading from natural riparian vegetation.
What can people do to help improve watersheds in their area?
There are a number of things people can do such as conserve water, capture and reuse rainwater with cisterns and rain barrels, reduce their use of fertilizers and pesticides and landscape with native plants. But the biggest thing anyone can do to improve their local watershed is to get involved! Volunteer sometime for environmental projects (e.g. stream monitoring, stream cleanups, tree planting), or better yet, take an active role on a board or committee of your local watershed association. Watershed organizations need people with diverse skill sets – even if one does not have an environmental background as long as the passion and commitment is there they can be a great asset.
What inspired you to work in this field?
As far back as I can remember I have spent my entire summer outside –playing in the dirt, canoeing in the Neshaminy Creek; which instilled in me a desire to protect the environment. In addition I have always enjoyed helping people.
I first focused on watershed management specifically as a potential career when completing a capstone project. I loved completing the field work and analysis, but the best part of all was seeing the community’s response and interest in me and my classmates’ recommendations. In 2008 I learned about the BCCD Watershed Specialist position opening and seemed like a natural fit for me; what better place to work than my native Bucks County!
Where is your favorite outdoor place to visit in Bucks County?
I love getting out to Nockamixon State Park, especially paddling in the lake! It is located in such a beautiful area of the county.