By Trina Dhar, Barnard College.
This summer, I interned at the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC), a local nonprofit organization that is dedicated to protecting the Huron River located in southeastern Michigan.
A large aspect of my job was going outside and collecting data. I joined the creek walking interns to walk along tributaries of the Huron River. We collected data including water temperature, pH level, water conductivity, rate of flow and more, which are all used to determine the health of the tributaries. I also participated in the Water Quality Monitoring program, to collect samples of water in the Huron River Watershed to be tested for bacteria, nutrients and background chemistry. Going outside to collect data allowed me to directly interact with and create a connection with the river, the tributaries and the land around them. This gave me an even greater appreciation of my job at the HWRC in helping to protect the watershed.
In the HRWC office, I was working on outreach education projects for the residents in the Huron River Watershed. It is crucial to connect the people living in the watershed to the natural areas around them so that they can also gain a greater appreciation of the areas and be more aware of their impact on the natural areas. One of the very first projects that I was working on was researching models for how other organizations have already involved community members in the design, building and maintenance of rain gardens. My findings will be used to educate and connect community members in the city of Wixom to a rain garden and other green infrastructure practices that will be implemented by the HRWC next year. I hope that the involvement of the community members will encourage people in Wixom to be more open to installing additional rain gardens in their communities for the benefit of the river and water quality.
Another outreach project that I participated in was tabling for a booth in some of the Metroparks “Summer Fun” events. For these events, groups of youth from Southeast Michigan were provided free transportation to come out to the park and participate in outdoor activities. I demonstrated bugs from the river to the kids and helped them learn a little bit more about these awesome organisms. This was one of my favorite experiences interning at the HRWC because it allowed me to directly encourage kids to interact with and connect with the organisms of the Huron River. Their eagerness in learning about the bugs made me feel like I was making a true impact by increasing their awareness of the organisms in the environment.
Through this internship, I realized that it is crucial to connect ourselves and others to nature in order to fulfill the larger mission of most environmental organizations, including the HRWC, in helping to keep the environment protected. My experience at the Huron River Watershed Council has further inspired my desire to connect people in urban areas to nature, such as in New York City, my hometown. I hope to continue to catalyze the connection between people and the nature around them in order to increase their understanding of the environment and increase their desire to protect the environment.