As you may have seen in our Spring newsletter, since 2013 we have been working with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy (PPC) on a grant received from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program. One of the goals of our partnership on this grant was to develop a culture of stewardship for the Nine Mile Run watershed by engaging a wide range of ages in citizen science and stewardship activities. One way we approached this was to implement PPC’s Mission Ground Truth (MGT) program at Wilkinsburg Middle School.
MGT is an interdisciplinary ecosystem assessment program mapped to PA state academic standards for 7th and 8th grade students that includes in-class discovery activities as well as a field trip to Frick Park. During the field trip, students get to be ecologists for the day, and have the opportunity to use the same tools and sampling methods that scientists use to evaluate the health of forest and stream ecosystems.
Recently, NMRWA staff worked for two days in Frick Park with Environmental Educators from PPC to help lead the Wilkinsburg Middle School students through the field day programming.
We began each morning by discussing goals for the day, then broke into small groups. During the morning session, the groups each explored a section of the Fern Hollow stream while discussing questions such as “how can ecologists detect and measure pollution in a stream?” and “what benefits do humans and animals get from streams?” Then the students recorded data on physical and chemical water quality characteristics, such as temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and velocity. Next, we explored the benthic macroinvertebrate populations by carefully overturning rocks and collecting samples using a net. To wrap up, we would discuss how everything tied together by asking questions like “based on the data we collected, is the stream healthy or unhealthy?“and “how does the quality of Fern Hollow affect the health of Nine Mile Run?”
After a break for lunch, the students got to venture into the forest for a deeper look at the complex forest ecology present in Frick Park. We identified different tree and plant species and talked about the various ecosystem services that forests provide to animals, streams, and people. We asked questions like “why is biodiversity important in forests?” and “how is the health of this forest related to the health of Fern Hollow and Nine Mile Run?” Then the students used forestry tools to collect data on the location, size, and type of trees, and we looked for evidence of Asian long-horned beetles. To wrap up, we asked questions similar to the morning session, like “is this section of the forest healthy or unhealthy?”
Over the course of the two days, we had a wonderful & enriching experience working with the students and with the PPC staff. Thank you to Mike, Taiji, Steve, and Chelsea for their expertise & enthusiasm in implementing the MGT programming!
Earlier this month NMRWA staff travelled to Scottdale, PA for a staff development day. Scottdale is home to the Jacobs Creek Watershed Association. We met Annie Quinn, the Executive Director of the watershed association. The association is young but has accomplished quite a lot. Annie showed us around town to the various projects Jacobs Creek has created and led.
First, we visited the downtown Scottdale area where Jacobs Creek has created several green infrastructure projects. In downtown, every pedestrian crosswalk is made from pervious pavement. This allows water to flow through the ground and is also more visible to drivers. Along several of the streets, rain gardens line the sidewalks. Curb cuts allow the water to flow into the rain garden and any excess water can flow out.
Additional pervious pavement and rain gardens are located throughout the downtown area. One particular rain garden is located next to a government building which was experiencing severe flooding during rain events. Jacobs Creek worked to situate the rain garden at the correct spot to mitigate the water. The building sits at the bottom of a parking lot which was causing the rainwater to flow directly to the building. In addition to the rain garden, Jacobs Creek created levels of the parking lot. At three points in the lot, street trees and pervious pavement were installed. This allows rainwater to infiltrate in three different locations. Any rainwater that is not captured at these points will continue to flow into the rain garden at the end of the lot. Thanks to all of these measures, the government building no longer experiences flooding.
Jacobs Creek continued with green infrastructure projects at the local middle school. With a large campus, the school was also experiencing problems from stormwater runoff. The watershed association worked with the school to create a large rain garden on the school grounds. The garden has served as green infrastructure but also as a unique teaching tool for teachers.
Our last stop was at a mobile home park in town. This area had also suffered from flooding. In particular, one woman was receiving runoff from the entire park into her house. Jacobs Creek created and planned several green infrastructure projects to absorb the stormwater on this property. During our trip, it was still under construction but a system of drains and pervious pavement will soon address stormwater in this area.
The number of projects in Scottdale was quite impressive. We learned a lot from the process and ideas of Jacobs Creek. We are excited for the future projects and success. We are grateful to Annie for showing us around and teaching us so much. We are excited to show her around the Nine Mile Run Watershed soon!