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Bay Blog: diversity

May
15
2017

River Corps puts young adults on pathway to greener future

Queen Richardson, a member of the D.C. River Corps, takes a photo of a shade tree planted in front of a RiverSmart home. She and her fellow corps members inspect the trees for insects, signs of disease and other maintenance needs.

Meet the River Corps: a new partnership between the District of Columbia Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) and the Latin American Youth Center. This inaugural group has 10 members, and on this sunny April day, three of them are learning how to conduct home inspections.

The River Corps is a five month program in which young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 gain training, both in class and on-the-ground, in green sector work, with the intent that this experience will help them gain employment in the field afterward.

While the program is only in its first year, the Latin American Youth Center brings 40 years of experience in running programs aimed at equipping young people with the tools for success. For example, they also run the Montgomery County Conservation Corps, a similar program just to the east of D.C. that helps young adults get their GEDs while building the skills to start a green career.

River Corps members Rashid Mills (left), Tyshaun Turner (middle) and Queen Richardson (right) document the condition of two trees at this RiverSmart home with the assistance of Program Coordinator Faith McNeil and Crew Leader Mike Weitekamp. The information they gather will go back to DOEE, and, if needed, the River Corps will come back to perform maintenance.

This new partnership not only builds green jobs skills in D.C.’s young adults, it also helps DOEE maintain their projects and programs. One of those is RiverSmart Homes, one of many RiverSmart programs offered by DOEE that incentivize property owners to manage stormwater and reduce the amount of pollutants that enter local waterways—and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.

Homes enrolled in the RiverSmart program manage stormwater through the use of green infrastructure, such as rain barrels, pervious pavers and rain gardens, but those practices need maintenance to be effective. Through the River Corps, DOEE has the capacity to make the in-person visits needed to check that the practices are fully functional, and Corps members gain experience in a growing green infrastructure field.

Tyshaun Turner and Queen Richardson, both members of D.C.’s first River Corps group, ensure a rain barrel is properly connected to the downspout on a RiverSmart home.

The homes also serve as outdoor classrooms, and today’s lesson includes rain barrels, pervious pavers and trees. Mike Weitekamp, River Corps Crew Leader, walks the trainees through each feature, asking questions as they run through the checklist of what they should be looking for and documenting. He points out other elements around the yard, such as terraced gardens or areas beginning to erode, to further demonstrate how concepts they’ve learned about appear in real life.

Rashid Mills, part of the River Corps team, appreciates the hands-on aspect of the program. “In the book, it seems like a bunch of detailed information that has no significance,” he says. But in the field, the connections between technical standards and real life examples are easier for him to see.

Working outdoors makes the subject matter more relatable, Mills notes, but it also gets him more comfortable with the environment. At first, he saw forests as somewhere he shouldn’t go. Now, he’s starting to see them as less intimidating. “There are actually pathways in there,” he says.

This year, the River Corps will visit plenty of outdoor classrooms: they’re planning to inspect 80 RiverSmart homes and conduct photo monitoring on streams like the one restored at Linnean Park in northwest D.C. They have indoor classroom sessions as well, where they learn about topics such as climate change, invasive species and erosion and sediment control.

Queen Richardson, who was already a gardener before joining the River Corps, notes how what she’s learning goes much deeper. “It’s a lot different than just gardening stuff,” she says. “It’s more intense, but I feel as though the work we’re doing will make a positive change for the climate.”

Pervious pavers, like those shown above, are considered a best management practice because they help rainwater infiltrate into the ground as opposed to running off the pavement and into the storm sewer.

River Corps projects focus on DOEE priorities, but they also serve the dual purpose of preparing the team for certifications such as pesticide application and green infrastructure. These certifications can help them better compete after the program ends when they are looking for other green employment.

The green infrastructure certification applies particularly well to the work they’re performing at RiverSmart homes. As they make their inspections, River Corps Program Coordinator Faith McNeil runs through vocabulary and asks follow up questions about different concepts and techniques in order to help prepare them for their upcoming exam. Created in part by D.C. Water, the green infrastructure certification could help the River Corps members find long-term employment in a city that has a renewed emphasis on creating and promoting green infrastructure projects.

“The District of Columbia’s green economy is growing, as the demand for green infrastructure increases in response to the need for climate adaptation,” said Tommy Wells, Director of DOEE. “The River Corps program trains young adults in the District to install and maintain rain gardens and stormwater retention sites, like those implemented through the RiverSmart program. River Corps is helping create more pathways to the middle class by ensuring the District has a workforce with the technical skills necessary to meet the needs of this expanding market.”

River Corps member Rashid Mills and Crew Leader Mike Weitekamp adjust the mulch around a tree at a RiverSmart home. The River Corps makes home inspections to RiverSmart homes to ensure stormwater practices like trees and rain barrels are properly installed and maintained.

Many River Corps members see the program as more than a pathway toward a green job, but as a way to a better future—for themselves, their families and their city. Tyshaun Turner has lived his whole life in D.C., but says he never had a great relationship to the water. “I jumped at the first chance to do something to better the water,” he says.

Mills likes the fact that he can apply what he is learning not only to a future job, but to the way he currently lives his life. He sees the River Corps as a way to learn how to conserve water, grow his own food and control pests. “I want to be self-sustaining,” he says.

Richardson sees the River Corps as a way to create the opportunity for green jobs, and that “improving water quality by cleaning the streams provides clean water for our children."

Programs like the River Corps align with the Chesapeake Bay Program’s goal to increase the number and diversity of people involved in restoration work. Learn about our Diversity Workgroup’s efforts to create and expand employment and professional development opportunities for minority and underserved groups in the region.

 

Photos by Will Parson

Joan Smedinghoff's avatar
About Joan Smedinghoff - Joan is the Communications Office Staffer at the Chesapeake Bay Program. Originally from Chicago, she was introduced to the Chesapeake Bay region through the streams of central Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor's in Environmental Studies from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., where she first discovered her passion for storytelling.



Mar
03
2017

Six groups working to grow and diversify the green sector

The “green sector” is the part of the economy that includes jobs aimed at reducing energy, protecting ecosystems, managing natural resources, increasing efficiency and much more. It’s a growing part of the economy that includes a wide range of jobs, but will always be in need of people with the support and training to fill those positions. As the Chesapeake Bay Program takes steps to increase the inclusion of diverse communities in our environmental efforts, here are a few of the groups working to support and build skills among those who are entering, or are already part of, the green workforce.

Reggie Parrish speaks during the Chesapeake Bay Program Diversity Workgroup Meeting at Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center in Baltimore, Md., on Nov. 2, 2016. In February, the Bay Program released the results of its first-ever diversity profile assessment.

Green 2.0

Green 2.0 is an effort to increase racial and ethnic diversity within the environmental field. The group’s 2014 report, The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations, found that the minority composition in environmental groups has not broken through the “green ceiling” of 12 to 16 percent, despite the country’s overall increase in diversity. Members of Green 2.0 aim to change that statistic within the field by advocating for transparency and accountability, which includes tracking progress toward increased diversity.

Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences

Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) is one of many organizations working to break the “green ceiling” identified by Green 2.0. The national organization—with chapters at nine colleges in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.—promotes academic and professional advancement by empowering minorities in the environmental sciences. With both student and professional members, MANRRS serves as a forum for professional development, networking and mentorship for students as well as a source of prospective and qualified employees for professionals.

Chesapeake Bay Trust

The Chesapeake Bay Trust supports engagement in restoration activities its many grant programs. One of those, the Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns (G3) grant program, helps support the green sector by funding projects that require those services. The grant funds projects that increase green spaces and incorporate practices that help control stormwater runoff.

The G3 grant focuses on green streets, because by doing so—as its name implies—it also supports green jobs and creating green towns. Addressing stormwater runoff issues enhances local water quality and increases a community’s livability. Building and maintaining these projects can help support the green jobs market, and enhance economic vitality.

Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay

In January 2017, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay formally pledged to foster diversity and inclusion in its structure, policy, goals, and staff and leadership. This commitment formally stated what the organization has been working toward in many of its projects and programs.

One of those programs is the Restoring the Environment and Developing Youth (READY) Program, which the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay began in 2012 in partnership with local organizations in Howard County, Maryland. The program has the explicit goal of developing job skills in young adults, while also helping the county meet stormwater needs. However, READY particularly focus on engaging communities that are traditionally underserved when it comes to environmental activities.

Aimed at residents between the ages of 16 and 24, the program is designed to provide jobs for young adults with limited or no access to environmental jobs, allowing them to develop the skills necessary for a future in stormwater management. Over the course of a summer, participants learn to install rain gardens, assist in tree plantings and engage with the community around improving local water quality. They come out of the program with the experience, knowledge and skills to continue down the path toward a career in the environmental field.

Washington Parks and People

Like READY, Washington Parks and People’s Green Corps program has two goals: increase employment among the residents of Washington, D.C.’s underserved Seventh and Eighth Wards while also addressing the city’s urban forestry needs.

This eight-week program provides trainees—many of whom are ex-offenders—with entry-level training in fields such as urban forestry, stormwater management and green infrastructure. Along with learning job skills, trainees build self-confidence, gain experience working on a team and work to improve their community. Upon completion of the program, trainees receive a certificate as well as help with referrals and finding job opportunities.

Civic Works

Video credit: Civic Works, Baltimore Center for Green Careers

Civic Works is a Baltimore-based organization that aims to strengthen the city’s neighborhoods through education, skill development and service. They operate a number of programs with a particular focus on creating jobs, growing and promoting healthy food, reducing and conserving energy and creating a more livable city.

One program in particular, the Baltimore Center for Green Careers (BCGC), trains participants to enter emerging green industries including solar installation, weatherization and brownfield remediation. Participants complete classroom training, a practicum and, in most cases, paid on-the-job training. Through the program, trainees receive industry-recognized certifications.

Along with learning the skills and techniques necessary for these career paths, participants learn skills such as financial literacy and conflict management to help them make the most of their placement after the program. BCGC partners with almost a dozen companies that have committed to hire exclusively BCGC graduates and pay “family-sustaining” wages.

 

Are you looking for an environmental job or to fund a green project? Our weekly newsletter, Bay Brief, is full of current job openings and grants available around the Chesapeake region.

What other groups provide job training or support in the environmental field? Let us know in the comments!

Image by Will Parson; READY video by Steve Droter

Joan Smedinghoff's avatar
About Joan Smedinghoff - Joan is the Communications Office Staffer at the Chesapeake Bay Program. Originally from Chicago, she was introduced to the Chesapeake Bay region through the streams of central Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor's in Environmental Studies from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., where she first discovered her passion for storytelling.



Feb
23
2017

Chesapeake Bay Program releases results of first-ever diversity profile

Reggie Parrish speaks during the Chesapeake Bay Program Diversity Workgroup Meeting at Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center in Baltimore, Md., on Nov. 2, 2016.

The inclusion of all types of voices and communities is critically important to the success of environmental protection and restoration efforts in an increasingly diverse watershed. Now, the Chesapeake Bay Program is taking steps to make sure the partnership and its staff reflect the diversity of that community through the release of its first-ever diversity profile assessment.

In 2016, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, on behalf of the Chesapeake Bay Program, distributed a diversity profile to approximately 750 people who work for or with the partnership. The survey revealed that 84 percent of respondents identified as white, while just 13 percent of respondents identified as non-white. Meanwhile, 35 percent of the people in the watershed—which spans parts of six states and the District of Columbia—identify as non-white. In establishing this baseline, the Bay Program is taking an important first step in making its partnership reflect the watershed it represents. 

“Setting a baseline and being transparent about the state of diversity in our partnership is a critical first step towards increasing the diversity of people who are engaged in the leadership and implementation of restoration efforts throughout the Bay watershed,” said Jim Edward, Chair of the Bay Program’s Diversity Workgroup.

Alongside goals like oyster health and water quality, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement includes a goal to increase the number and diversity of people who support and carry out conservation and restoration work. Under this goal, Bay Program partners committed to increasing representation in leadership and are assisted in this effort by the Bay Program’s Diversity Workgroup. A dynamic assembly of diverse voices from around the watershed, the Diversity Workgroup is dedicated to creating meaningful employment opportunities, promoting environmental justice and engaging underrepresented populations in conservation and restoration efforts.

“We are delighted that the Chesapeake Bay Program has not only taken stock of its diversity but has truly committed to ensuring that it reflects the racial diversity of the Chesapeake region,” said Whitney Tome, Executive Director of Green 2.0. “We look forward to collaborating with them on this initiative.”

When diversity is taken into account in the planning and implementation of conservation and restoration work, this work is likely to benefit underrepresented and underserved communities. Increasing the inclusion of previously underrepresented communities in our work fosters creativity, drives innovation and ensures all people in the watershed can share in the vibrancy of the region.

Learn more.



Nov
21
2016

Festival del Rio Anacostia

Guate Marimba plays during a traditional dance by Despertar Maya Ma’am during the Festival del Rio Anacostia.

On October 15th, alongside a mud-banked river usually empty of life, little children skip among brightly tented booths, carrying fishing lines and nature-inspired passport books. Community members watch water run clear through a root-planting demonstration or try to spot American eels in a cloudy-water tank teeming with fish. In the air, marimba music and the tantalizing smells of Latin fare mingle with the musical murmur of combined Spanish and English conversations. A few feet away, a paper mural of insects is constantly expanded as everyone tries their hand at drawing local bugs. This is the Festival del Rio Anacostia, and it’s impossible to decide whether you are at an environmental event or a cultural celebration. 

Community members use plastic utensils to search for living creatures in river samples and discuss what the presence of each species means for river health.

That perfect fusion is certainly true for Ricardo, an English-speaking local resident who heard about the event through a Spanish-scripted Facebook post.  Recognizing the word “festival,” he thought it’d be a nice way to spend an afternoon and enjoy some good food. Not until arriving did he realize the festival was heavy with nature awareness. “That’s good!” he exclaims. “We have to live in it. Anything we can do to make it better for me, for you, for the younger generation coming up, you know… be a participant. You learn and take it back to your own neighborhood.” He planned to take pictures and share them with people in his neighborhood that couldn’t make it that day—allowing them to witness the good food, dancing and environmental lessons alike.  

Citizens cross culture and language to come together through art at Bladensburg Park in Md.

Coming together and collaboration were evident in the creation of the festival as much as the event itself. It began as an idea of the Latino Outreach Subcommittee of the Anacostia Watershed Citizens Advisory Committee. Before long, a diverse array of government bodies, citizen committees and environmental organizations offered their capacities and expertise. The space at Bladensburg Park was donated, along with the tents and chairs. Music was provided by Guate Marimba and entertainment by Despertar Maya Ma’am in conjunction with Asociacion de Guatemaltecos Sin Fronteras. Parks and Recreation Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Anacostia Watershed Society, Chispa, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, Friends of Sligo Creek, Chesapeake Bay Trust and Anacostia Riverkeepers were all heavily involved in making the festival a reality.
 

Young festival-goers “fish” for critter facts at the Friends of Sligo Creek display.

Being aware of your environment and learning to care for it go hand in hand, and organizers do their best to highlight that intersection. Most booths have both English- and Spanish-speaking personnel; at others, roving translators are available and happy to help. For those without readily available transportation, buses run throughout the day to pick up attendees for the festival and later take them back home. “In many cases due to language and economic barriers, Latinos do not have an opportunity to recreate in the Anacostia River,” wrote Chispa Maryland Program Director Ramon Palencia-Calvo. “[This festival] open[s] the river to this environmentally underserved community.”

Indeed it does, and plans are already underway for a Festival del Rio Anacostia 2017. For more information or to get involved with next year’s festival, contact rpcalvo@mdlcv.org.

Caitlyn Johnstone's avatar
About Caitlyn Johnstone - Caitlyn is the Outreach Coordinator at the Chesapeake Bay Program. She earned her Bachelor's in English and Behavioral Psychology at WVU Eberly Honors College, where she fed her interest in the relationship between human behavior and the natural world. Caitlyn continues that passion on her native Eastern Shore by seeking comprehensive strategies to human and environmental wellbeing.



May
23
2016

EPA releases environmental justice action agenda

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the EJ 2020 Action Agenda (EJ 2020), a strategy to advance the agency’s environmental justice efforts. Over the next five years, EJ 2020 will serve as a framework to advance environmental justice—particularly in communities where a combination of environmental, health, social and economic factors disproportionally affect the community.

Fourth grade students from Federal Hill Preparatory School learn about water quality and the environment with educators from Living Classrooms Foundation at Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center in Baltimore, Md., on March 23, 2016. Once the site of an illicit dump, Masonville Cove has been cleaned up and transformed into 54-acres of wetlands, nature trails and bird sanctuary in an underserved area of southern Baltimore.

According to the EPA, environmental justice is the “fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.” Under the strategy, the EPA will work to improve results for overburdened communities, incorporate environmental justice in decision-making, build partnerships with states and co-regulators, strengthen their ability to take action on environmental justice issues, and demonstrate progress on critical national environmental justice challenges.

EJ 2020 will build on the groundwork laid by EJ 2014, the agency’s previous environmental justice strategy. The framework lays out a set of priorities structured around three goals. First, to deepen environmental justice practices within EPA programs. Second, to work with federal, state, tribal and community partners to increase positive impact within overburdened communities. And finally, to demonstrate progress on critical national environmental justice challenges, including lead, drinking water, air quality and hazardous waste sites.

The Chesapeake Bay Program is similarly committed to advancing environmental justice throughout the region and in its work. Environmental justice is one of the guiding principles of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, and through the Diversity Action Team, the Bay Program is working to identify groups that are under-represented in its activities and looking for ways to create meaningful opportunities for engagement.

For more information and to read the entire document, visit the EPA’s EJ 2020 Action Agenda page.



Mar
24
2016

Five remarkable women with ties to the Chesapeake region

From authors to world leaders, inventors to entrepreneurs, the Chesapeake region has been home to some pretty remarkable people. Men such as George Washington, Thurgood Marshall and Edgar Allan Poe are well known for being from the region—but for Women’s History Month, we wanted to celebrate a few of the historic women who have lived and worked in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

1. Harriet Tubman (1822 – March 10, 1913)

(Image from U.S. Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons)

Harriet Tubman, the most famous “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, was born in 1822 in Dorchester County, Maryland. Born into slavery, she escaped to Philadelphia in 1849. Tubman eventually set up a home in Auburn, New York, but returned Maryland not once but 13 times to free family, friends and other slaves, earning her the moniker “Moses.”

During the Civil War, Tubman served as cook, scout, spy and nurse to black Union soldiers. In June of 1863, she guided Colonel James Montgomery and his Second South Carolina regiment, becoming the first woman to command an armed military raid. They destroyed several important Confederate sites and freed over seven hundred slaves. After the war, Tubman returned to Auburn and continued her career as an activist, humanitarian and suffragist. In 1903, she opened the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, where she later died in 1913.

2. Euphemia Lofton Haynes (September 11, 1890 – July 25, 1980)

Euphemia Lofton Haynes was a lifelong educator and the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics. Born into a prominent family in Washington, D.C., Haynes received her bachelor’s degree from Smith College in 1914. She then began what would turn into a 47-year teaching career, which included elementary, high school and college classes.

In 1930, after receiving her master’s from the University of Chicago, Haynes began teaching at Miner Teachers College (later the University of the District of Columbia), a school dedicated to training African American teachers. She founded the college’s mathematics department and remained its head until she retired. In 1943, she earned her Ph.D. in mathematics from the Catholic University of America, becoming the first black woman to do so. Haynes was appointed to the D.C. Board of Education in 1960 and spent her eight years there fighting racial segregation.

3. Rachel Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964)

(Image from U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr)

Rachel Carson is famous for Silent Spring, her groundbreaking book outlining the dangers of pesticides. After receiving her bachelor’s in biology from the Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham College) and her master’s in zoology from Johns Hopkins University, Carson went on to work first as a professor at the University of Maryland and then as an aquatic biologist at the Bureau of Fisheries (now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).

Writing was always an important part of Carson’s work, and she found early success when she began publishing her own work. Her first three books, released between 1941 and 1955, were all well-received. The third, The Edge of the Sea, became a best seller, won many awards and allowed Carson to retire from the Bureau of Fisheries to concentrate on researching pesticides.

The resulting 1962 book was the wildly successful—and controversial—Silent Spring. In it, Carson describes the effects of large-scale pesticide use, particularly DDT. While Carson never called for an outright ban of pesticides, the book caused a firestorm nonetheless. President John F. Kennedy established a committee to investigate pesticides, and Carson was asked to testify before a Congressional committee in 1963. She died a year later, but is remembered by many as someone who ignited the environmental movement.

4. Frances Payne Bolton (March 29, 1885 – March 9, 1977)

Frances Payne Bolton stands at Mount Vernon in 1972. (Image from Cleveland Press/Cleveland Historical)

Frances Payne Bolton had a lasting impact on the Chesapeake Bay as the founder of the Accokeek Foundation. Born into a wealthy Ohio family, she attended schools in Cleveland, Ohio, New York and France. It was after her husband Charles’ death in 1940 that Bolton’s political career began, when she was appointed to serve out his term as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Bolton was heavily involved in issues of healthcare and foreign policy, becoming the first woman delegate to the United Nations. She continued to serve in the House until she was defeated for reelection in 1968.

Outside of politics, Bolton was involved in philanthropic work and was particularly fond of Mount Vernon. It was her love of the estate that led her to buy a 500-acre farm in 1955 just across the Potomac River, in order to prevent development that would spoil the view from Mount Vernon. Bolton then founded a land trust, the Accokeek Foundation, in order to preserve and protect the land forever. She served as the foundation’s president until her death in 1977.

5. Vera Rubin (July 23, 1928 – December 25, 2016)

Vera Rubin, second from left, at the NASA Women in Astronomy and Space Science 2009 Conference. (Image from NASA/Wikimedia Commons)

Vera Rubin is a trailblazing astronomer who first proved the existence of dark matter. Although born in Philadelphia, her family moved to Washington, D.C., when she was young, and it was there that her fascination with stars flourished. She attended amateur astronomy meetings and, with her father’s help, built a telescope when she was only 14. In 1948, Rubin graduated from Vassar College as the only astronomy major. Rejected by Princeton because of her gender, she received her master’s degree from Cornell, then returned to D.C. to complete her Ph.D. at Georgetown. From there, Rubin taught at Montgomery County Junior College in Maryland, then worked at Georgetown as a research assistant and later as assistant professor. In 1965, Rubin joined the staff of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., where she remains today.

In the 1970s, Rubin began researching galactic movement and found that stars on the edges of galaxies moved just as quickly as those in the center. This was unexpected, because from what she could see, there was not enough gravitational pull to keep fast-moving outer stars in orbit. Rubin’s calculations showed that galaxies must contain invisible dark matter that keeps those outer stars in orbit. In recognition of her accomplishments, Rubin was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and in 1993 received the National Medal of Science, the highest American award in science. Being all-too familiar with the challenges women face in the sciences, Rubin makes it a point to be a mentor to other women, saying once that “it is well known that I am available 24 hours a day to women astronomers.”

 

What other remarkable women have ties to the Chesapeake? Let us know in the comments.

Joan Smedinghoff's avatar
About Joan Smedinghoff - Joan is the Communications Office Staffer at the Chesapeake Bay Program. Originally from Chicago, she was introduced to the Chesapeake Bay region through the streams of central Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor's in Environmental Studies from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., where she first discovered her passion for storytelling.



Feb
03
2016

Getting the most out of diversity work: Establishing the foundation for success

As part of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, Chesapeake Bay Program partners committed to a goal of increasing diversity in conservation and restoration activities. Since then, certain diversity-related terms and phrases have been used more frequently. But it’s important to use these words and phrases in the proper context. Defining the meaning of words like “diversity” as they apply to an organization and integrating these principles into restoration work is an invaluable part of achieving diversity goals that last.

In our work, the Bay Program has defined diversity as follows: “Expanding the diversity of the workforce and participants in restoration and conservation activities means to include a wide range of people of all races, income levels, faiths, genders, ages, sexual orientations and disabilities, along with other diverse groups. For this effort to be successful it will require us to honor the culture, history and social concerns of local populations and communities.” Because diversity is such a broad term, it can refer to a multitude of things; when talking about diversity, it’s important to be as intentional and specific as possible about the kind of diversity you’re referring to and why.

Diversity implies balance and harmony, while recognizing the individual differences that bring about that harmony. Our goal is for those who are participating in restoration and conservation efforts to better reflect the kind of diversity that exists in our watershed. But to diversify successfully, we must also consider the meaning of terms like inclusion, cultural competency and environmental justice, and our goals related to these terms should be place-based.

In what ways can your organization include diversity and inclusion into your mission? Who is your target audience, and how can you build a relationship to achieve your mutual goals? How can your organization play a role in achieving environmental justice, and how can you include diversity within your organizational structure? Examine your organization from the inside out, beginning with your mission statement and your board of directors. Does your board represent the diverse perspectives and constituencies of the communities you serve?

When addressing stewardship and engagement opportunities, consider how you can diversify programs and projects to reach a broader audience. The public is looking for more targeted restoration engagement with traditionally underserved and underrepresented populations. And as the Bay Program ventures forward in its diversity initiative, the proper communication of diversity-related terms—and the application of these concepts in a way that responds to the needs of the public—will be critical to success.

One way to get your voice heard right now is by providing feedback on the Chesapeake Bay Program's draft two-year workplans—both for diversity and for other watershed goals—on our Management Strategies & Work Plans Dashboard, now through March 7. 

Written by Shanita Brown, Diversity Communications and Outreach Coordinator at the Chesapeake Bay Program



Oct
01
2015

Connecting diverse communities and groups helps strengthen our collective watershed work

For ten years, individuals and groups from around the Chesapeake Bay region have been invited to connect with and learn from one another at the annual Chesapeake Watershed Forum, hosted by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. This year’s Forum, held in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, focused on highlighting ten years of progress and sharing strategies to get new results for the Chesapeake Bay and its communities. The Forum was also organized in a way that allowed for new voices of the Chesapeake to be heard and new relationships to form.

Christopher Davis of the Chesapeake Conservation Corps and Al Todd, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, participate in a group exercise in the "Breaking Through Barriers" session at the 2015 Chesapeake Watershed Forum on in Shepherdstown, W. Va., on Sept. 25, 2015.

At the registration desk, the Forum’s focus on diversity jumpstarted with the collection of attendees’ demographics to establish a baseline of data from which we can measure progress. The results have been tallied; however, the Alliance is awaiting the final attendance count to determine a true baseline of Forum demographics. Moreover, many attendees were overheard expressing positive reactions to the diversity of attendees, such as “This is the most diverse conference I’ve been to in the region,” and “This is the first time I’ve been in at a conference like this where I see more than two people that look like me.” At future events, we hope to explore including the survey in the registration form to hear from even more participants.

Two plenary presentations were given by Audrey and Frank Peterman, founders of the Diverse Environmental Leaders Speaker Bureau. Audrey’s presentation focused on perceptions versus realities. Traditionally, she explained, people have perceived non-white groups as not being active in environmentalism. She then showed us the reality: people from numerous ethnic, age and gender backgrounds are contributing to the narrative. Audrey stressed the importance of not making assumptions about levels of participation, but instead seeking out and elevating the stories and contributions of people of color and other backgrounds. Later, Frank’s presentation hit on the practice of inclusion from a personal and organizational level. “Diversity must be a line item in your budget, and it must be purposeful,” he emphasized. He also highlighted the four elements of community engagement: Mission, Message, Messenger and Method. The message we try to get across shouldn’t be too broad—it should be layered, and include everyone needed for success.

Shanita Brown, Diversity Communications and Outreach Assistant at the Chesapeake Bay Program, speaks at the 2015 Chesapeake Watershed Forum.

Diversity was interwoven throughout the Forum, and people felt it as they made personal connections and shared ideas with one another. First-time Forum attendees were vocal about how much they enjoyed the conference. Attendees and presenters in the “Bridging the Chesapeake Bay Partnership Gap” session expressed their interest in building upon the Forum through future collaboration. The session, inspired by Diversity Action Team stakeholders, brought forth new ideas and actions to consider for the implementation of our Diversity strategy. A common theme was the need for an interactive network where groups and organizations can share ideas and lessons learned, as well as connect with people throughout the watershed. Attendees expressed interest in a “bureau of Bay-related diversity consultants,” and hope that watershed organizations will submit workforce diversity data to GuideStar, a nonprofit reporting site, for a more accurate baseline of diverse engagement and employment.

The final activity of the Forum was a Privilege Walk, intended to provide participants with an opportunity to better understand personal, community and societal privilege and the role that privilege plays in our collaborative work towards healthy and flourishing watershed communities. Forty-five people attended the Walk, with an opportunity afterwards to reflect on the activity as a group. Overall, the Walk was well received. Many participants shared that while reflecting on their privilege or lack thereof was difficult or uncomfortable, it gave them an opportunity to bond with the Forum community. People continued to talk about the Walk and how it affected them long after it ended, while waiting in line for dinner and in other common areas. A video recording of the Walk and participants’ reflections will be made available in the near future.

Attendees at the 2015 Chesapeake Watershed Forum shared their vision for a healthy, flourishing and resilient watershed.

People attend conferences to learn and share stories and ideas, but they also want to make personal connections that they can build upon afterwards. The atmosphere of the Forum was welcoming, inclusive and diverse—an opportunity for genuine relationship-building that could yield meaningful results for our communities and our Bay.

To learn more about diversity and the Chesapeake Bay Program, you can read our new Diversity Management Strategy and review and provide comments on our draft Diversity Workplan.

Written by Jim Edward, Deputy Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program, and Shanita Brown, Diversity Communications and Outreach Assistant at the Chesapeake Bay Program 

Note: The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect U.S. EPA policy endorsement or action.

About Jim Edward - Jim Edward is the Deputy Director of the Chesapeake Bay Program. He plays a lead role in coordinating the U.S. EPA's activities with other federal agencies, and works with state and local authorities to improve the water quality and living resources of the Bay.



Jul
29
2015

Four restoration, outreach projects to receive $150,000 in funding

Four partnerships in the Chesapeake Bay watershed will receive more than $150,000 through the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program, which supports the restoration of urban rivers, wetlands and stream banks across the United States.

In the District of Columbia, the Earth Conservation Corps will join with several other partners to restore portions of the Anacostia River and to connect communities with hands-on urban birds programming.

In Baltimore, Outward Bound Baltimore will protect the city’s urban birds by restoring habitat, reducing collision hazards for birds and creating awareness of migratory species that travel through the city. The Living Classrooms Foundation at Masonville Cove will work with the Hispanic Access Foundation to engage local Hispanic church congregations in conservation activities focused around urban watershed issues and the Monarch butterfly.

The Alice Ferguson Foundation, Trash Free Maryland and other partners will trawl the surface of the Chesapeake Bay for samples of microplastics, to better understand and educate others about the level of plastic pollution in local waters.

Each of these projects will help support work toward achieving the goals of the recent Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, in particular those outcomes related to citizen stewardship, diversity and toxic contaminants.

The Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program began in 1999 as a partnership between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Association of Counties and the Wildlife Habitat Council. In addition to the four projects inside the Bay watershed, the program will fund 60 projects in 28 other states.

Learn more about the awards, or see a full list of the 2015 winners.



Apr
24
2015

Biodiversity helps support healthy, interconnected ecosystems

Biodiversity—the variety of life on Earth—is key in supporting the complex processes that keep ecosystems healthy, stable and productive, according to a new study from an international team of researchers.

Image by Andy Hector, courtesy Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences/Flickr

Conserving biodiversity has clear benefits for the plants and animals themselves, as well as the people that rely on these ecosystems and the services they provide. And many studies have found that biodiversity can boost a single function of an ecosystem, such as plant growth or nutrient filtering. But according to Jonathan Lefcheck, lead author of the study and post-doctoral research associate at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), this research is the first to look at how biodiversity supports the suite of complex, interconnected processes essential for a healthy and functioning ecosystem.

Researchers analyzed 94 experiments conducted around the world to examine the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem health. Their findings show that greater species diversity can benefit multiple functions of an ecosystem. “In other words,” said Lefcheck in a release, “as you consider more aspects of an ecosystem, biodiversity becomes more important: one species cannot do it all.”

A key example of these relationships can be found close to home, in the underwater grass beds of Chesapeake Bay. “Seagrasses are home to a variety of small animals that perform different jobs,” said Lefcheck. “Some control algae that would smother seagrasses. Others keep out invasive species. Still others provide food for striped bass and blue crabs that are served on our dinner tables. By conserving this variety of animals, we can maximize the health of the grass bed, and the benefits to people.”

The study is available through the online journal Nature Communications.



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