Thursday, September 21, 2023

Penn State Master Watershed Steward Coordinator Erin Frederick Honored By Lehigh Valley Business Council

By Brad Kinsman, Penn State Extension Water Resources Educator

In June, Rebecca Hayden nominated Erin Frederick for the Lehigh Valley Business Council Forty Under 40 Award.

When she first met Erin Frederick in 2003 when she was interning at the Lehigh County Conservation District, she was earning a degree in Environmental Resource Management at Penn State University. 

Erin’s dedication to the cause of environmental conservation in the Lehigh Valley, and, as time has gone on, across the Commonwealth, has transformed community engagement in the conservation world. 

Erin brought a vision of conservation volunteering to life, creating a powerful—now statewide—organization that recruits, trains, guides, organizes, and retains community members to make a real difference for their local environment.

In the first years Erin and Rebecca worked together, The District was struggling to develop a viable volunteer base; it was a constant puzzle, how to recruit interested, qualified community members, and then help them to volunteer using a science-based foundation, while making sure their work was effective, and also helping them to stay motivated. 

Surveys over the years have shown that, when asked, people will prioritize 'the environment' and 'water quality' as key concerns, and yet, it always seemed to be a challenge to figure out the right way to find the right people, train them in a way that was helpful and engaging, and then keep them involved and interested. 

People would offer to volunteer, and then slowly disengage, citing a lack of leadership or a clear direction.

After leaving the District, Erin took a position as the Master Gardener Coordinator for Penn State; at the same time, she continued to serve on the Board of Directors of the Watershed Coalition of the Lehigh Valley

At a meeting in 2012, Erin shared an observation she had made: the Master Gardener program had a waiting list of volunteers waiting to train, and the program had amazing retention and a powerful impact.

Erin asked a question at that meeting that would end up transforming the conservation volunteer landscape across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: Why isn’t there a similar volunteer training program for environmental conservation volunteering as the Master Gardener program is for gardening?

Looking into that question, it turned out that there were conservation volunteer trainings run through other state’s extension offices, sprinkled throughout the country. 

Based upon the various programs across the country, and the foundation of the existing Master Gardener program, Erin led a working group, recruited instructors, found venues and classrooms, and in the spring of 2013 the very first Penn State Master Watershed Steward class was held in the Lehigh Valley. 

Fast forward to 2023: there are MWS programs now in 42 Pennsylvania counties, with a total of 947 volunteers and counting.

This program has completely transformed the nature of conservation volunteering in Pennsylvania: Master Watershed Stewards train in the program, and they remain a part of an organized, collaborative group over time, making friends, creating new conservation projects, joining their local watershed associations and other groups, and bringing the science and resources of Penn State into their own communities. 

This is a model that has been copied over and over since Erin developed it—in other states, and by other organizations looking to create and maintain an active group of engaged volunteers. It turns out that people vastly prefer to volunteer while being part of something, and belonging to a group that offers education, support, and camaraderie. 

Those connections keep people going, get them interested, and provide new and exciting opportunities over time.

[Visit the Penn State Master Watershed Steward webpage for more information on this program.]

(Reprinted from the latest Penn State Extension Watershed Winds newsletterClick Here to sign up for your own copy- bottom of page.)

Upcoming Extension Educational Opportunities:

-- September 28: Dive Deeper Water Education Summit - Harrisburg

-- September 30: Riparian Buffer Maintenance - Dauphin County

-- October 4: Webinar - On-Lot Septic Systems and Groundwater Quality

-- October 28: Water Ways On Wheels - A Bike Tour In Lancaster County

-- October 30: Safe Drinking Water Clinic - Private Water Wells - Forest County

-- November 8: Webinar - Nitrogen In Groundwater, Where It Comes From, Health Risks

-- Penn State Extension Online Water Courses

Related Articles - Penn State Extension:

-- Celebrate Riparian Buffers Month In October!  With Penn State Extension, Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council, Penn State Agriculture & Environment Center  [PaEN] 

-- Master Watershed Stewards Celebrate 10 Years Of Making A Difference  [PaEN] 

-- Penn State Master Watershed Steward Coordinator Erin Frederick Honored By Lehigh Valley Business Council  [PaEN] 

-- Penn State Extension Future Master Watershed Steward Program Scaling Up  [PaEN] 

-- Introduce Students Ages 8-10 On How They Can Be Stream Doctors In The New Book -- Brooke Meets A Stream Doctor  [PaEN] 

Related Articles:

-- Register Now!  PA Statewide Watershed Conference Oct. 29-30 In Altoona  [PaEN]

-- DEP Blog: Abandoned Coal Mine Reforestation Initiatives Healing The Land  [PaEN]

-- ClearWater Conservancy’s Deb Nardone Resigns As Executive Director To Step Into The Role Of Executive Director For Foundation For PA Watersheds  [PaEN]

-- 17 PA Farmers, Organizations, Businesses Call On Congress To Expand Support For Agroforestry  [PaEN] 

-- Penn State Research: 87% Of Rivers, Streams Rapidly Warming, 70% Losing Oxygen; Aquatic Life May Be At Risk, Study Finds  [PaEN] 

-- DEP To Increase Monitoring, Develop Surface Water Standard For PFAS 'Forever Chemicals' After Study Shows 76% Of Streams, Rivers Contained At Least One Of These Chemicals  [PaEN]

-- DEP: Widespread Presence Of PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ In Fresh Water Leading Shale Gas Operators To Use Contaminated Water In Fracking Operations; DEP Doesn’t Require Routine PFAS Testing  [PaEN]

-- Forbes Trail Chapter Trout Unlimited Host Military Veterans And First Responders At Trout Fishing Event In Westmoreland County  [PaEN]

[Posted: September 21, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner