Cultivating an interest in the environment
Anais Martinez checks the condition of a flower in the river garden she worked on at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center over the summer. BENJAMIN WINN/TIMES NEWS
Twenty-two-year-old Anais Martinez of Allentown has concluded a 12-week environmental fellow internship with the Lehigh Gap Nature Center through the Alliance for Watershed Education.
Martinez helped educate local students, led tours and cultivated a garden at the center.
The program, funded by the William Penn Foundation in Philadelphia, allowed 23 young adults to intern with education centers associated with the alliance.
The centers are located on and near the Circuit Trail in the Delaware watershed, which provides 15 million people with drinking water.
For Martinez, this isn't the first time she has worked with a nature program.
"I first got involved five years ago with the Color of Nature," Martinez says. "That's how I fell in love with nature."
Martinez says that one of the best parts of her job as environmental fellow was how it varied each day.
"There's no real routine, every day is different. Sometimes we'll go to schools and bring our snake, some days we'll lead tours, other days we'll come back here and hike or kayak or bike, all while talking about nature."
Martinez recalls one of the highlights of the job did not even take place at the nature center. Following a school presentation, one day, she was out at a supermarket.
"All of a sudden this kid runs up to me and goes 'Oh you're the snake lady' and he gave me a hug."
Martinez culminated her experience at a capstone summit in Philadelphia on Friday. There each member of the program presented his or her research and findings and talked about their experiences at their respective educational center over the course of the program.
Martinez says she would focus on the river garden she cultivated at the center.
"The alliance is meant to inform people how to keep the water clean for people and animals, and how to prevent pollution," Martinez says. "I'm going to focus on the river garden I tended here and how it applies."
Martinez is a student of Indiana University of Pennsylvania where she majors in criminology, but she says she will continue at Wilkes University to pursue a master's degree in environmental science. After that, she wants to stick with environmental work.
"This kind of work is ideal as every day is different, but working with the kids is great."
Martinez says anyone who wants to do their part in helping with the watershed or other environmental issues should go to the nature center or others like it.
"Find someone there and ask to get involved," Martinez says. "Starting small always leads to bigger opportunities."