By TTF Intern Ricky Vereneck (currently a junior at Stockton University.)

My name is Ricky Vereneck and I have been interning at TTF since November 2014.  My discovery of TTF came about when I read an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer that focused on locating and tagging freshwater mussels in the Delaware River to assess the health and vitality of the water. TTF was one of the organizations conducting the survey, along with the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary. I said to myself, ‘this is really fascinating. I didn’t know that you can determine the quality of the water through a shellfish’  This piqued my curiosity and sparked my interest, so I called these organizations to learn more about it.

TTF returned my phone call, and I spoke with Robin Irizzary.  He asked me if I could come in during an event and welcome attendees as they walked in the door. This was my first assignment. Here I met the TTF staff along with some board members. I learned more about TTF, such as their mission, community projects that they are involved in, outdoor events and activities they plan and organize, and their partnership with the Philadelphia Water Department and connection with local legislative bodies. In short, their focus is to promote environmental education and advocate about the importance of their watershed.  I asked if I can be a part of their organization as an intern, and they gladly accepted my offer.

Since then, my time here has been occupied with numerous tasks.  One of my first duties was answering and directing phone calls. I learned how to utilize Constant Contact, an online email marketing company. Here I recorded phone numbers and addresses for people and businesses associated with TTF. There wasn’t much to do outside during the winter months, so I made seed packets with black-eyed Susans, doggie bags, and buttons for future events.  Alex Cooper introduced me to ArcGIS Online, an online geographic information systems website that TTF employs to create maps for various projects. I created a map that outlines the TTF watershed and project sites, a map with storm drain markers, and a layered map which shows schools, libraries, and churches affiliated with our organization.

Winter passed and Spring arrived.  I assisted Robin at Healthy Palooza, an event in Juniata Park to raise health awareness and promote local business growth.  We staffed a table there and provided information to those curious about TTF.  Doryan de Angel invited me to help with the Latinas in Motion 5k run in the Tacony Creek Park. LIM encourages hispanic women to improve their health and fitness.  One of the more frequent activities TTF hosts are bird walks through the Tacony Creek Park in Juniata Park.  I’ve helped at two bird walks, locating resident and migratory birds for those who joined us in the park.  At the Tacony Creek Park gateway at I street and Ramona Avenue we held a tree planting ceremony. Here, with the help from the Fairmount Park Conservancy, we planted over 20 trees to stimulate citizens to use the park more frequently.  A similar event happened a couple of months ago at Ethel Jordan Park in Abington.  We engaged the community and planted over 200 trees along the Tookany Creek to create a riparan buffer to provide shade and prevent bank erosion.

In January 2015, we commemorated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a day of service.  This was a community clean-up, and local Philadelphia school children helped us pick up trash in the Tacony Creek Park and along the streambanks.  Over 50 bags of rubbish were collected.

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I also worked with Alex Cooper when he and Stephanie Figary from the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association collected macro invertebrates from the streams in Abington. We put on our waders and sat in the creek, brushing the bedrocks to collect the insects. These were preserved in alcohol and sent to a lab for further analysis to assess the health of the water.  We also measured dissolved oxygen concentrations. Recently, I have been helping Alex Cooper with the Streamkeepers program. This is a citizen science program for Montgomery County citizens who reside near creeks in our watershed to participate in monitoring and recording water quality through various methods of observation, including pH testing, stream flow, color and odor, etc.  Alex needed me to compile and format the data in a way that would be legible. I decided to make an Excel spreadsheet and create bar graphs. This way, important values such as high, low, and average could be easily discerned.

It has been 13 months since I’ve been at TTF, and I must say I really enjoy being a part of this organization. I didn’t realize how much work it takes to operate a non-profit!  I will continue to intern and be of service, and when TTF asks of me to assist at an event, or to create a GIS map, or input data on a spreadsheet, or answer the phone and direct a call, I will gladly say yes.

Interested in an internship? Here’s more information.


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