Written by TFF Staff

Watershed protection leaders came together in March for the 2015 Watershed Congress along the Schuylkill at Montgomery County Community College in Pottstown. Presented by the Delaware Riverkeeper and a number of other sponsoring organizations — including TTF — the goal of the conference is to share information, tools, and practices for watershed protection and restoration. This year, TTF not only attended, but presented Streamkeepers from Scratch: Building a Volunteer Monitoring Program.



The Streamkeeper session opened with Jon Musselman, Upstream Municipal Watershed Planner, providing information on the William Penn Foundation’s Delaware River Watershed Initiative and TTF’s goals for the Tookany Watershed as part of this effort. Partner Stephanie Figary, Water Quality Program Manager with the Wisshickon Valleyy Watershed Association, described the stream monitoring program being implemented in suburban Philadelphia watersheds, and how citizens fit into this effort.

Finally, Alex Cooper, TTF Community Watershed Specialist, presented information on the successes and challenges of starting a volunteer water quality monitoring program. Audience members — citizens, volunteers, students, watershed non-profit organization representatives, educators, and local officials — were eager to learn how they could improve their own programs or become involved. We connected with new organizations leading efforts in other watersheds, and shared helpful guides for starting a volunteer program.

TTF staff also attended a number of fascinating sessions on unique topics in watershed science.

Ed Engelman’s presentation, Students Identify and Photograph Macroinvertebrates…and You can Too! highlighted how a group of Visual Communication students created digital macroinvertebrate identification cards. Macroinvertebrates are organisms that don’t have a backbone, are visible with the naked-eye, and are important indicators of stream water quality. The species samples that were collected to create the ID cards were gathered from Trout Creek, New York, and were then photographed by using various techniques, including a custom-made cell phone microscope adaptor!



















The production of these cards is still in progress;  the project was made possible with funding from the Catskill Watershed Corporation in partnership with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. If you’re interested in obtaining a free digital copy of the ID cards when complete, you email Ed at . To view instructions on how to make your very own cell phone microscope for under $8.00, view his webpage.

We also enoyed the Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium presentation entitled: Aqua Tales: Using Theater to Teach Scienceprovided by a group of students from the Center’s CAUSE Program (Community And Urban Science Enrichment program). CAUSE is a year-round Youth Development program for 8th grade and up that trains volunteers in science, education and community outreach.

Students demonstrated a never before seen five-minute skit — complete with costumes and props — that educated the audience about the differences between a Horseshoe crab and a True Crab. For example, did you know that Horseshoe crabs have ten eyes? Afterwards, we were given the opportunity to come up with our very own skit while using the various props provided. This was a fun, unique way of engaging and teaching spectators about different science topics, including math, biology and ecology. Here’s more information about the CAUSE program.



Jon attended Diversity- Putting Our Current Experience in a Larger Context. The focus of this session was to highlight proven strategies for engaging people of color from Pennsylvania’s urban and suburban communities in preserving and protecting our watersheds, natural resources, and open spaces. People of color are signicantly under-represented in natural conservation  and outdoor environment activities. Tarsha Scovens of Let’s Go Outdoors, along with Dottie Baumgarten of Sustainable Choices, a long-term TTF partner — presented engaging and simple strategies to show the way forward.

The powerful Keynote presentation, Pure Water, Clean Air and a Healthy Environment…For the Generations, was given by Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and environmental attorney Jordan Yeager.  Their presentation focused on the high level of environmental protection given to Pennsylvania’s water, air and environment by our state constitution.  Our rights to pure water, clean air and a healthy environment have been recognized by the State’s highest court as inherent and indefeasible to be protected by all levels of government for both present and future generations. These rights have their basis in the Constitution, but were themselves recognized by the PA Supreme Court as fundamental human rights protected by law, but not given by law.  In practical terms, this foundational legal status gives great impetus to citizens and advocates across the state to demand better care of our water, air, forests and entire environment.

See you at next year’s Watershed Congress!

About Julie

Julie Slavet is TTF's Executive Director. She has over 20 years of experience in community affairs, program development, and personnel management. Julie earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Smith College and an M.S. in Public Affairs from the University of Massachusetts. Julie has served as an Advisor to the Jenkintown Community Alliance and a Director of the Montgomery County Democratic Women’s Leadership Initiative. Contact Julie at 215.844.8100 or julie@ttfwatershed.org.


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