Get Your Feet Wet!
Kingdom phylum class order family genus species.
I vividly remember learning about the taxonomic ranks in my seventh-grade biology class with Mr. Robinson. I always enjoyed science class, specifically life and environmental science. My parents spent much of my childhood cultivating an appreciation for science and the natural world in me, and for the most part it worked! I would spend hours in Fishing Creek turning over river rocks with my dad, looking for creatures and catching bait.
I preface with all of this because, somehow, I went from exploring stream critters, taxonomic ranks, and the natural sciences to studying and working in business and finance. While underwriting and servicing small business loans, what I do on a daily basis, is a science in itself, I have always had an itch for the water.
Now, twelve years post-college, I’m finally diving back into my love of the outdoors with greater intention by participating in the Lancaster Watershed Leadership Academy.
I’m clearly a newbie with clean water work, BUT, I’m here to tell you that there is always a place to start.
“Sometimes the best place to start is by stepping outside to truly observe nature. Whether you can get out to a nearby nature preserve or you take a stroll through your local city or county park, taking an intentional walk or wading in a cool stream can be eye opening and restorative.”
– Lindsey Deininger
Here are a few tips for those that have interest in getting their feet wet but don’t know how or where to begin:
Start small – Perhaps you have a small flower garden. Replace any non-natives/invasive plants with a native alternative. Not only do native plants and grasses have deeper root systems, allowing more water to infiltrate the ground instead of running off the surface, but they also support pollinators, birds, and other wildlife important to our ecosystem and biodiversity. Check out PA Native Plant Society for a few great examples.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – After all, it’s the best way to learn and grow. This spring and summer, I volunteered my whole family to build a rain garden in our front yard. It was a lot of work! While I am very proud of all the research I did and what we accomplished, there are some things that I would change if I did it over again. But I still took a chance and made a difference in water quality in my yard. That’s what counts!
Follow the leaders – I can’t tell you how much I have learned about clean water work just by following experts on social media. From non-profits to small businesses, activists to local and state governments, university agricultural extensions to local watershed associations, almost all have a social media presence. Even if you don’t have space for a pollinator garden or rain barrel, you can do a deep dive into the work of those who do it best simply by following them. And if you don’t partake in/binge social media, sign up for monthly e-newsletters. It’s amazing how many free webinars, articles, forums, and events are available to educate the general public.
Contact your local representatives – If there is a project close to home that you believe can make a difference in your community and watershed, don’t hesitate to contact your municipal supervisor or state legislator to advocate for clean and clear streams. The need for clean water knows no party lines.
Get involved – Local watershed associations and nonprofits are always looking for volunteers and clean water advocates. There are many projects (i.e. riparian buffer tree plantings) that happen in a watershed, especially in spring and fall, that require a lot of hands. Getting on the email list or joining the group’s periodic meetings is a great way to heed the call to action. Volunteering for a 3-hour tree planting is incredibly educational and rewarding!
Get Outdoors – Sometimes the best place to start is by stepping outside to truly observe nature. Whether you can get out to a nearby nature preserve or you take a stroll through your local city or county park, taking an intentional walk or wading in a cool stream can be eye opening and restorative. I like to take photos of plants and creatures along the way to look up through an identification phone app when I get home.
There are so many ways to get involved in and educated about clean water—you don’t have to be a scientist or career environmentalist to take some simple steps right where you are. So jump in and get started!
Written by Lindsey Deininger, Lancaster Watershed Leadership Academy scholar.