Though efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 are keeping us indoors, we’re not neglecting life outside. Like us, our partners continue to prioritize the protection of local waterways—work that must continue with safety in mind as we respond to this emergency.
Starting April 2nd, the Penn State Master Watershed Steward program is shifting its education and training to an all-online platform, welcoming a new crop of participants to a virtual environmental experience.
Get started and stream the March 25 info session:
The program was originally established to recruit and commission volunteers to safeguard natural resources. The first class of Philadelphia residents convened in August 2019.
On an annual basis, 10 to 20 people are selected from counties across Pennsylvania. As training is organized at the county levels, volunteers exchange 40 hours of instruction for 50 hours of volunteer service during their first year. In the following years, stewards must volunteer 20 hours and attend at least 10 hours of update training annually.
Rising Watershed Masters are familiarized with a range of water-protection topics, including stormwater management, wetlands, invasive plants, and stream ecology - to name a few.
During their instruction, these volunteers tackle several environmental tasks, such as organizing stream cleanups, sampling water quality and stream assessments, planting native meadows, monitoring streams for bacteria, designing demonstration rain gardens and more.
Ordinarily, participants meet at various locations featuring watershed conservation projects lead by nonprofits and government agencies. For example, Philadelphia sites have included the Fairmount Water Works, the Overbrook Environmental Center, and Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Center.
But, in light of COVID-19, Penn State Extension is moving these trainings to Zoom, a remote conference platform. We here at PWD remain the primary partner of Penn State Master Watershed Stewards, continuing to support the program and its alternative approach with our diverse staff of environmental experts.
Several agencies are co-training with Penn State Extension, including the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Stroud Water Research Center, the Academy of Natural Sciences, Schuylkill Center, and Climate Works.