by Helen Golimowski
My internship this semester was with the Spa Creek Conservancy in Annapolis, Maryland. Through my work with the Conservancy, I gained experience working with a nonprofit organization that focuses on restoration and preservation of a watershed, Spa Creek. Spa Creek Conservancy is a volunteer organization, whose goals are to clean up, repair damage to, and educate the public about Spa Creek. Throughout the semester, I completed various tasks related to these goals. I participated in a trash pick-up and learned about a program that is used to facilitate organization of cleanup events. I oversaw a restoration project from start to finish and composed news articles for the Conservancy’s website, as well as conducted research on future grant opportunities. Lastly, I helped keep the Conservancy’s social media accounts active and compiled information for signs that will be put up at each of the Conservancy’s project sites.
During my time working for Spa Creek Conservancy, I conducted my deskwork at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay office. This allowed me to meet some of the people who work for the Alliance, and learn about the projects they are involved in. One of the projects is Project Clean Stream. Project Clean Stream facilitates the organization of trash cleanup events across the entire Chesapeake Bay Watershed, by compiling them all in one website. This way, it is easy for organizations to find volunteers and get word out about their cleanup events. In addition to learning about this tool, I participated in a trash pickup of the Spa Creek Headwaters. Trash runs off into the Creek from higher, surrounding, land. Therefore, it is important to organize regular trash pickup events with many volunteers, because the trash accumulates quickly. Removing the litter from the watershed felt productive, because by participating in something so hands-on, it felt like we were really making a difference.
I also completed fieldwork, overseeing the Hawkins Cove Ravine Restoration Project. Each week, I visited the construction site and spoke with the construction crews, compiling information on the progress of the project in order to write a news article update for the Spa Creek Conservancy website. I also took pictures of the site, not only to include in the news article but also to track the progress of the construction. In order to complete this task, I had to learn how to post on the website, and write articles in a newsletter tone. I also had the opportunity to speak with the landscape architect who designed the project, in order to better understand the design choices and get some ideas about what to look out for in the weeks following the project’s completion. During the construction process, modifications needed to be made after discovering unexpected erosion issues. The crews addressed this problem by creating channels that would direct the water into the ravine, rather than flowing alongside it. The purpose of my work on the Hawkins Cove project was to educate the public about the progress and reasoning behind the restoration. After visiting the site each week, and seeing it progress firsthand, I became a little attached to the project and found that I valued the work much more than I would have if I had not had the chance to witness it myself. In addition, I loved having the opportunity to share the progress with others.
I also assisted the Conservancy by conducting grant research so that they can receive funding for future projects like Hawkins Cove. I had no previous experience with grant research, so this was a great learning experience. I helped to find potential grant opportunities, by researching the requirements for possible grant opportunities, assuring that Spa Creek Conservancy would be eligible to apply for them. I accomplished this by taking note of different grants’ priorities, classifications (nonprofits), geographical restrictions, application deadlines, and contact information. I found that there are many different types of grants, and the requirements for each can be very specific. Conducting this research is helpful to the Conservancy for receiving funding for any future projects they wish to complete, because they are a nonprofit organization so grants provide much of the funding they need to initiate their plans.
Finally, I worked with the members of the Spa Creek Conservancy on a signage project that will hopefully be completed this summer. I helped to create a shared Google doc with all the information needed to create eight signs, which would be put up around Annapolis at the project sites. The signs are meant as an awareness tool for the public, so people will notice the improvements the Conservancy has made as well as become aware of the Spa Creek Conservancy as an organization. The signs will be bilingual, and will include the funders of the project, the details about what function the project served, as well as the project’s goals. Examples of sites that will get signs are rain gardens, gutter outfall planter boxes, pervious parking pads and pavement, and stream restorations. I assisted in taking pictures for the signs, collecting information about the funders of the project, and adding descriptions. This project is important for raising awareness about the function and benefits of the efforts the Conservancy is making to keep the stream waters around the Annapolis watershed clean.
In addition to these three major projects, I also helped keep the Spa Creek Conservancy Facebook page active, by posting pictures of project sites with updates on current projects, sharing the news articles I wrote about Hawkins Cove, and adding information about upcoming events such as volunteer plantings and trash pickups. I also did research and reached out to members of the Department of Public Works for the conservancy about implementing a storm drain stenciling program, which would engage the youth and call attention to the storm drains that empty into Spa Creek. Finally, I did research about organizing a stream wader’s program in which volunteers would be trained in how to take samples for the Maryland Biological Stream Survey. All these activities engage the community, promote education, and serve a purpose in providing important information about the Annapolis Creeks.
My experience with the Spa Creek Conservancy was very valuable to me because it showed me a potential career path working with a nonprofit, as well as offered me connections through the several people I worked with, of all different occupations. The people I worked with at the Conservancy and the Alliance were very open to giving me information about job opportunities, and provided me with information about where I can look for job opportunities after graduation. I felt that the work I did with the Conservancy was meaningful, and made a significant difference to the Spa Creek Watershed and those living around it. I thoroughly enjoyed and cared about each aspect of work I did with the Conservancy, and believe that the experience I have had will benefit me as I begin post-graduate life.