Meet ambassador Anna Caputo: Environmental educator, naturalist and now for this year the watershed ambassador for the Mullica River and its estuary system. These are one-year terms, so in a normal year this position has to be planned out carefully to serve an area as vast as the Mullica River’s 578-square-mile watershed. But this is no normal year, so like everyone, Anna has had to make some adjustments.
The New Jersey Watershed Ambassador Program is an AmeriCorps position through the water-monitoring division of the state Department of Environmental Protection, and also backed by nonprofit organizations across the state. She is one of 20 ambassadors at 20 different watershed locations across New Jersey.
Anna is a graduate of Green Mountain College in Vermont with a degree in environmental education. She has worked as an environmental educator and field researcher before coming back to New Jersey. Here she was accepted by AmeriCorps, hosted by the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve, to serve a term as the Mullica watershed ambassador. Anna is interested in the interconnections within the natural world, including the relationship between what happens on the land and how that affects bodies of water.
The main facets of being a watershed ambassador include education in local schools and organizations on watershed science, facilitating workshops and presenting at events promoting green infrastructure and environmental stewardship. Also, she monitors and samples at various water bodies to provide information on habitat and macroinvertebrate diversity. In the first half of her term, Anna led citizen science workshops at the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, gave presentations at local festivals and schools, organized a cleanup in the Bass River State Forest and conducted water quality assessments around the Bass River and Wharton State Forests.
However, things have changed since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Anna had to regroup. As a direct response, she has been prepping and handing out lunches to the parents of kids who normally get free lunches at school. During this extended period, she is using her background in environmental education and passion for science communication to pull together programs and resources for students stuck at home. She is gearing these toward stormwater runoff awareness, citizen science projects, water quality monitoring and practicing phenological observation (plant and animal life cycles in relation to climate changes).
Back at the Cousteau reserve in Tuckerton, Anna and the staff are planning to host a self-guided “Bio-Blitz” from May 24 to 30. This will take place on the grounds of the Cousteau Research Center and also on Great Bay Boulevard out into the natural areas. See the Cousteau website at www.jcnerr.org for more details and also to find out about other programs that have shifted to online presentations as well.
Anna is determined to make the most of her time as the 2020 Mullica River Watershed Ambassador. Flexibility, imagination, online technology and ingenuity will be her pathways to achieve that goal. If you would like to talk with Anna about at-home environmental education activities, or if you are a teacher interested in having Anna give virtual presentations, send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go Green Galloway is a volunteer organization dedicated to reducing the carbon footprint of Galloway through the promotion of energy efficiency and conservation, environmental education and the implementation of sustainable practices. We always welcome new volunteer members. Contact us at email@example.com or call Mary at 609-742-7076. Also be sure to like our Facebook page.