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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Cobbs Creek, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

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Cobbs Creek, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
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Registered: December 2021
City/Town/Province: Collingdale
Posts: 2
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My name is Calvin Keeys and I am currently a freshman at Drexel University at their College of Arts and Sciences. I have had this career interest since I was five years old when I read books and watched shows on PBS, National Geographic, and Animal Planet to name a few. I am amazed by the multiple animal habitats, classifications, and interactions. I vividly remember drawing animals like birds, squirrels, cats, dogs, and my pet hamster and mouse during my elementary and middle school years. My dad has always taken me to science-related places in the Philadelphia area such as Cobbs Creek, Schuylkill River, Wissahickon Creek, Penn's Landing, the Philadelphia Zoo, the Franklin Institute, the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Wagner Institute of Science, and Bartram's Gardens.

This summer, I co-led a challenge project during the summer season of the MobilizeGreen Urban Conservation Crew. When I learned about the Nicodemus Wilderness Project and their Apprentice Ecologist Initiative, I knew that my summer challenge project aligned with the goals of the initiative. MobilizeGreen is an organization dedicated to getting more young people from underrepresented backgrounds involved in the field of conservation. I worked with MobilizeGreen at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum for the fall season last year and the spring and summer seasons this year. During the summer internship, we did several conservation projects including invasive fish removal, northern snakehead removal, and replacing the wooden fence around the pollinator garden. There were also portions of the day when we learned about environmental education topics such as the acknowledgement of the Lenni Lenape people, the connotations of the different terms for nonnative species, and the overall relationship that people have with nature.

Towards the end of the season, the crew members split into groups to create challenge projects with each project addressing an issue that the group identifies. When we first discussed the challenge projects, the crew members split into two groups, with one group making an educational video about freshwater pollution and the other group making a scavenger hunt to explore the refuge. Ash, one of the crew members, and I were originally going to join one of these groups, but then I though of a separate project idea. During my previous spring season with MobilizeGreen, the crew members had kayaked down Darby Creek and into Tinicum Marsh with Refuge staff. We used grabbers and trash bags to collect trash in the water, and the refuge managers taught us about the trash within the Delaware River and other bodes of freshwater. My original challenge project idea was to have community members paddle down Darby Creek in kayaks to collect trash in the river, and learn about how the trash entered the river. Unfortunately, we were not able to go through with the idea due to limited access to equipment, but with the help of out crew leader, Kendra, Ash and I were able to come with another plan for a challenge project.

During one of the environmental education sessions, our crew leader, Kendra, made an activity for us reenacting all of the different pollutants present in the United States' freshwater within the past 500 years. During the activity, we learned how each pollutant ended up in the water and the effect that each pollutant has on the water and native species. This environmental education activity would be the first part of me and Ash's challenge project. The second part of the challenge project was a trash cleanup inspired from conservation projects we had done in the past to remove trash from Darby Creek, Cobbs, and Whitby Meadows, all green spaces in Philadelphia.

After figuring out our challenge project, Ash and I had to recognize the problems out project identifies, the goals of the project, and the schedule for the project. Polluted waterways are a large, ongoing issue in Philadelphia. We chose Cobbs Creek, an 11.8 mile-long tributary of Darby Creek, in Delaware County and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the clean up because the large amount of trash present is unappealing and unhealthy for the people and wildlife that inhabit the area. We also used Cobbs Creek's pollution to highlight the systemic pollutants and lack of environmental awareness within Philadelphia. A big source of the pollution within Cobbs Creek is short dumping, the practice of illegally dumping trash to avoid paying for a dumpster. Another big source of pollution comes from Philadelphia's sewer system, which comprises the Combined Sewer Outfall (CSO) and the Municipal Separate Stormwater Sewer System (MS4). When too much rain enters the CSO, the system can become overwhelmed and overflow into the creeks. The rainwater that enters the MS4 discharges directly into the creeks without any water quality treatment. Both of these occurrences negatively affect wildlife and make the water unsafe for recreation.

The goals of the challenge project were to make Philadelphians environmentally aware by having them realize that they can positively affect the water they drink and prevent systemic pollutants from occurring. For all three sources of pollution, we wanted to encourage people to reach out to the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania governments to have them acknowledge the environmental injustice present and work towards fixing the issue. We also acknowledged that having cleaner water will reduce the cost of filtering the water.

The next step of the challenge project was to find an organization that would help us find community members that would be interested in participating. After doing some research, Kendra, Ash and I found five organizations of interest so I emailed each of them. LandHealth Institute, a non profit with the goal of reconnecting people with nature in the West Parkside Neighborhood of Philadelphia, responded and since I had previously met their founder Scott Quitel and their executive director Liza Herzog, I was happy to collaborate with them. Liza said that their summer program PROFess (Program for Future Environmental Scientists and Stewards) would be available to participate. I then contacted Kiara, the person working with PROFess, and we were able to find a day and time to do the clean up.

Ash and I then had to get the materials that we needed for the environmental education activity and cleanup. We originally planned on getting a sponsor to provide materials for the MobilizeGreen and PROFess members. Kendra told us about United By Blue, a clothing company that uses sustainable materials and ethical manufacturing for their products. Unfortunately, they did not have any cleanup supplies or single-use DIY cleanup kits when I contacted them. To make up for this, Kendra, Ash and I went to a hardware store to get trash grabbers, gloves, and trash bags. For the participants, we got large containers of water to drink, ice for the water, and water ice.

One the day of the cleanup, Ash and I gathered the remaining materials and rehearsed the environmental education activity. The MobilizeGreen Crew (14 total) drove to the parking lot on Cobbs Creek Parkway to set up the materials. When Kiara and the PROFess members arrived (15 total), we provided them with water ice and water, and then had everyone introduce themselves. Ash and I led them through an environmental education activity by asking the question "Who polluted Cobbs Creek?" This question was followed up with the Pollutant activity, having PROFess and MobilizeGreen insert the "pollutants" into the bowl of water representing fresh water. While this was happening, Ash and I explained how each pollutant ended up in the water and the effect each pollutant has on the water and wildlife. Afterward, we demonstrated how to use the tools, then everyone split into groups, and started walking one block, collecting trash on the pavement from the parking lot leading up to the Cobbs Creek Parkway and Whitby Ave intersection. We then crossed the street and walked down Whitby Ave. Along the way, we identified point source pollution. After about two blocks, we stopped at a secluded meadow area next to the banks of Cobbs Creek, and picked up the trash that we found. The meadow started as a long curved path that led to an open area the size of a football field. We filled out trash bags with paper, plastic, glass bottles, clothes, and aluminum wrappers and cans. At the end, we all walked on the pavement back to the parking lot and had a discussion about the project and what we learned.

Ash and I made our challenge project to inform Philadelphians about the pollution in their water and the sources of the pollution. We wanted out community to encourage each other to self-reflect and safely dispose of trash in their neighborhood, knowing they are creating a difference individually and as a collective. We also wanted to encourage reaching out to local government officials so they can enact laws and policies that will help fix the current issue of water pollution. We can share this information by reaching out to churches, schools, local businesses, and other community factions.

My Apprentice Ecologist Project has enriched my life by giving me the experience of putting together a large-scale project. Recognizing and implementing all of the different components of the project allowed me to grow upon my management and organization skills, adapt to sudden changes, learn how to manage a group, and work with others. My project also helped me confront my anxiety. I am someone who is usually reserved and observant, so co-leading the challenge project gave me the opportunity to overcome the anxiety I would usually have when I am not in my comfort zone. I was also able to learn more about the issues that are being solved in my career field. Overall, my Apprentice Ecologist Initiative Project has inspired me to want to take on more active leadership roles and learn more about the issues in my career field.
Date: December 27, 2021 Views: 1774 File size: 24.9kb, 3110.8kb : 4032 x 3024
Hours Volunteered: 2
Volunteers: 29
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 18 & 15 to 30
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