Dave Carr and Anne Jane Grey have been EcoStewards with NMRWA since 2007. You will often find Dave pulling invasives along trails in Frick Park, and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot them both while they are in the stream doing their monthly flow monitoring.
1. Tell me how you first got involved with flow monitoring and Urban EcoStewards?
Dave: I became an Urban EcoSteward in the fall of 2007. I was looking to volunteer and what better than an activity that would get me out in one of our great regional parks? In 2014, I teamed up with Steve Bucklin and we started streamflow monitoring once a month. In 2017, Anne Jane took Steve’s place and we have been doing it ever since.
2. What’s your first memory of the Nine Mile Run Stream?
Dave: Hmm, I have a pre-restoration memory of a marshy baseball field but that probably isn’t what you had in mind. I don’t have a clear first memory of the restored stream.
Anne Jane: Like Dave I can’t remember when I first really noticed Nine Mile Run but I am guessing it was after we became EcoStewards. At that point I began to feel ownership of the stream.
3. What do you wish other people knew about restoration or monitoring?
Anne Jane: Even though monitoring is a small job, I like that we are regularly adding data about Nine Mile Run. Plus, it forces me to get near the water at least once a month. Dave and I also take a walk near the stream when we are done. Because of this, we were some of the first people to see the damage from the big storms last month and relayed that information to Brenda. So not only are we monitoring stream flow, but we also note monthly changes.
4. What’s it like to be an Urban EcoSteward?
Dave: Being an Urban EcoSteward gives me a chance to get out into Frick. Also, I really enjoy being an ambassador for the park and helping to raise awareness concerning the restoration and how special it is. If I am working near a trail people will sometimes stop to ask what I am doing, or to thank me for my efforts, or just to chat. For an introvert like me, this easy socializing is a nice thing.
5. When was the last time that you volunteered? How did it make you feel?
Dave: I worked in Frick today, (8/20/19), removing invasive mugwort. It made me feel…hot…and dirty…and relaxed.
Anne Jane: We did our August stream monitoring today (8/21/19). As always, no matter how tired or reluctant I feel, I am always happy when we start walking down the trail to the monitoring site – I notice the flowers, the trees, the birds – just being in the park helps my mood.
6. What keeps you engaged?
Dave: For most of us altruism can only sustain our efforts for so long. If you don’t truly enjoy what you are doing, you will soon move to some other activity. Since I have been at this for almost 12 years you can assume that I enjoy it. How could I not? I get to appreciate the wildlife in a different way than when walking or running through it and I often text Anne Jane a photo of my latest sighting of a snake, caterpillar, beaver signs, animal scat, etc.
Anne Jane: Again, feeling like I make a small contribution to the knowledge about Nine Mile Run and my hope that it will prove useful is my main motivation to keep monitoring the stream. I also like helping a small nonprofit like Nine Mile Run – for its size I think it makes a big impact. It is easy to get to know the staff and everyone is so appreciative.
For the past two years, NMRWA has been working with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy (PPC) to increase the environmental stewardship capacity of our watershed community. Funding for this work was provided by a grant received from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program. Maybe you read about this in our recently released Spring newsletter?
Yesterday, as a part this program, NMRWA staff co-led a training workshop for Urban EcoStewards on streamflow monitoring in Nine Mile Run. Along with Sarah Lavin, a graduate student in the Department of Geology and Planetary Science at the University of Pittsburgh, Sara Powell & Paul Yanulavich spent a sunny Sunday morning working with eight volunteers to measure streamflow and take cross-section measurements of the stream.
It is important for us to understand streamflow patterns and how the stream channel is changing in Nine Mile Run, both for continued restoration efforts in Frick Park (e.g., erosion remediation), and also so we can assess how well management efforts in the upper watershed (e.g., green stormwater infrastructure, rain barrels) are reducing excess stormwater flows into the stream.
Unfortunately, continuous monitoring of discharge (the volume of water flowing through the stream during a unit of time) is complex and expensive. Instead, since last summer, we have been working with Urban EcoSteward (UES) volunteers to help us collect data that will allow us to create something called a stage-discharge rating curve.
This curve will allow us to ‘reconstruct’ a continuous discharge record – giving us a much better understanding of streamflow in Nine Mile Run!
So, at Sunday’s training, we demonstrated how UES volunteers can measure the stream’s velocity and cross-sectional area – two critical pieces to calculating discharge. We then used similar methods to measure the stream channel geometry.
The geometry of the channel is also important to understand, because storms can cause large volumes of water to surge rapidly through Nine Mile Run, changing the stream channel shape very quickly. These changes, whether they are due to erosion or damage to built rock features, put our restoration efforts at risk. Regular cross-section measurements will allow us to look at how the shape of the stream channel is changing over time, and to apply necessary management efforts as needed.
Thank you so much to all the Urban EcoStewards and interested volunteers for coming out on Sunday! We will be posting more photos from the day on our Facebook page, so make sure to check them out!
If you are interested in becoming an Urban EcoSteward, click here for more information or email .
Today’s post comes from the Green Building Alliance (GBA). GBA is the regional chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, and works to inspire the creation of healthy, high-performance places for everyone by providing leadership that connects knowledge, transformative ideas, and collaborative action. GBA has an Emerging Professionals committee that enables like-minded sustainability professionals to be a force for progress within their communities by providing a forum for networking and education.
One of GBA’s Emerging Professionals is Christi Saunders – a virtual construction engineer for Mascaro Construction. She wrote today’s post about her experience volunteering in Frick Park as an Urban EcoSteward. Thank you to Christi & GBA for this guest blog post!
I live in Regent Square and have spent much time in Frick Park, either running, walking the dog, or playing tennis. I have always enjoyed my time in Frick Park because it feels like I’ve have been transported out of the city to the Middle of Nowhere, PA. Its calm, quiet, and beautiful.
Through living in Regent Square and my involvement with the Emerging Professionals at Green Building Alliance, I learned about the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association. NMRWA is involved in the cleanup and maintenance of the Nine Mile Run watershed, which includes Frick Park and parts of Wilkinsburg, Pittsburgh, Swissvale, and Edgewood. In all of the time I had spent in Frick Park, I had never considered how the park was maintained. I guess I just assumed that the city and the Parks Conservancy maintained the grounds, which in fact they do – they cut grass address fallen trees, service the restroom facilities, maintain the trails, etc. Other major maintenance activities in the park like collecting trash, removing invasive species, and planting new species, however, is actually accomplished through a volunteer program called Urban EcoStewards, which is managed by NMRWA and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.
Since I love Frick Park so much, I was eager to do my part to help maintain its great quality so others can enjoy it as much as I do. I brought the idea of joining the EcoStewards program to GBA’s Emerging Professionals group and we all agreed to take on the project. We have since been assigned a project site in Frick Park that is near the Edgewood/Swissvale on-ramp to the parkway. We started maintaining the site last fall mostly by removing English Ivy, an invasive species that tends to grow everywhere.
We returned to the project this spring, but we wanted to do more than just remove English Ivy. So Tom Cosgro and I attended a Spring Invasive Species training class that was held by NMRWA and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. We learned new species to identify and whether or not they need to be removed from the site. I also talked with NMRWA about what native species we could plant at our site. Two weeks before our spring cleanup day, I headed out and purchased a few bushes and several smaller flowering milkweed plants.
On our spring cleanup day this year, we began by removing several different types of invasive species including Garlic Mustard and Goutweed. Everyone noticed right away the lack of English Ivy, which made us feel accomplished since we knew that our last project had actually made an impact.
After an hour or so, the sky started to look darker so we decided to wrap it up by planting the natives that I had brought. As we began to dig holes for the bushes, the sky opened up and it poured down rain. We debated making a break for the cars but there was no time. We all jumped into the trees and found as much shelter as we could. The pouring rain only lasted about 10-15 minutes but it was enough that we all ended up soaked.
After the rain, we went on to plant a Button Bush, a Spice Bush, and a few Milkweed plants, which attract numerous species of butterflies. After that, we cleaned up and headed back towards Regent Square. We all enjoyed an ice cold beer and laughed about being so wet. Hopefully at the next EcoStewards day we will see our native plants flourishing along the trail in Frick Park. And if you haven’t explored this wonderful park yet, you have to check it out!
A recap of the UES Spring Invasives Workshop
This past Sunday, April 6, 2014, nearly forty enthusiastic volunteers attended the Spring Invasives Workshop in Lower Frick Park offered by NMRWA and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. It was a beautiful, sunny day, perfect for Jake Baechle, Volunteer Coordinator for the Parks Conservancy, and Paul Yanulavich, Urban EcoSteward Coordinator and Arborist for NMRWA, to talk about the Urban EcoSteward program and the importance of invasive plant removal and its connection to biodiversity.
For example, did you know that many plants from the nursery that people use in their gardens are specifically bred to be pest-free? Unfortunately, many of these plants find their way into Pittsburgh’s parks, where they have an unfair advantage over native plants.
While these invasive, pest-free plants are problematic for numerous reasons, one big one is that they affect the reproduction and survival of butterflies and moths. Butterflies and moths are not only unable to eat these plants, but they also are unable to lay their eggs on them, since they will ultimately need to be eaten by the young caterpillars.
One example of note is the monarch butterfly. Monarch butterflies’ main food source are native milkweed plants in the US & Mexico. Milkweed is the only plant Monarchs will lay their eggs on, which unfortunately is vanishing at a rapid rate, particularly in the Great Plains states along the Monarch butterfly’s migration route, due to increased use of herbicides. The effects on Monarch populations are alarming – at their peak in the 1990’s, Monarch butterflies occupied 45 acres of forest in the Mexican mountains; this past year they covered only 1.65 acres!
This lack of food and reproductive space for Monarchs as well as numerous other butterfly and moth species in turn affects bird populations. Adult birds can eat the berries of invasive plants, but their babies can only eat the soft butterfly and moth larvae usually found on the native plants these invasives are replacing.
Not all is gloom and doom, however. As participants at Sunday’s workshop learned, we can slow the rate of extinction and boost biodiversity and the food web by planting native plants, like milkweed, in our own backyards (and in the parks), and by removing the invasives that are taking their place.
Although not many plants (native or invasive) were coming up quite yet because of the late arrival of Spring, the group did manage to find plenty of emerging goutweed, garlic mustard, and mugwort plants to remove, and, as always, plenty of vines to cut away from our beautiful, native trees.
Thanks to all the Urban EcoStewards and other volunteers who helped to make the day a success, and to Jake Baechle and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Naturalist Mike Cornell for their knowledge, leadership, and insight.