Volunteer Spotlight: Tess

Tess Wilson is a librarian in the field of health information who loves talking loudly about digital literacy, and online privacy. Beyond her library work, she is an arts educator, mentor trainer, beer advocate, and zine enthusiast. She’s a collector of many things, from small rocks to big books.

1. Tell me how you first got involved monitoring and Urban EcoStewards?

I think my first experience volunteering with NMRWA was during my AmeriCorps service year. I can’t remember what or where it was, but what I can remember is how eager I was to get more involved immediately! I signed up for the newsletter and started volunteering more regularly, which eventually led me to find out about becoming an EcoSteward. Having more regular interactions with the team put me on their radar, and allowed me a deeper understanding of what exactly NMRWA does. I must have visibly perked up when I heard about the opportunity to join staff on monitoring trips, because before I knew it I was pulling on my waterproof boots!

2. What’s your first memory of the Nine Mile Run Stream?

Since I moved from Kansas to Pittsburgh in 2013, I’ve steadily migrated east. First Squirrel Hill, then Wilkinsburg, a stint in Regent Square, and now I’ve settled down in Swissvale. Throughout these moves, I’ve maintained close proximity to Frick Park. My dog and I regularly take long sunny strolls down those trails, so the park is inextricably linked to my life in this city! It’s hard to say what my first memory of the stream is. But I do know every time I see it, it makes me feel extremely lucky to live so close to such a lush green space.

3. What do you wish other people knew about restoration or monitoring?

Monitoring puts you in conversation with the stream. It gives you the chance to mark changes over time, witness the seasons through a different lens, and understand more deeply how the stream connects our tiny pocket of the world to even larger ecological conversations. I’m a big proponent of participating in citizen science, as I believe that kind of work brings people closer to the environment. Also, not for nothing, it’s a really fun way to break up a week!

4. What’s it like to be an Urban EcoSteward?

It’s exciting to feel ownership over something that plays such an important role in the lives of our community of critters (people and otherwise). Clearing out invasive plants from your corner of the park adds a visceral element to volunteering, and helps you get even more acquainted with the local ecosystem.

5. When was the last time that you volunteered? How did it make you feel?

I helped with monthly stream monitoring in January. It was still pretty cold out, so it made for a brisk morning! Starting the year off with that familiar routine was energizing and grounding.

6. What keeps you engaged?

Advocating for my community is important to me. (In fact, it’s one of the many reasons I love being a librarian!) Volunteering with NMRWA gives me a chance to take local action in a tangible way.