Due to drought and rapid urban development, Austin’s urban tree canopy has decreased by 25% in the last 30 years. With this, new tree plantings have drastically declined due to a lack of funds. This summer, fifty young men, and women will come together to participate in environmental stewardship, teamwork, and fun. Austin Environmental Heroes is a summer job program for high school students, ages 14-18, where they will gain experience in urban tree care and water quality testing.
The Austin Environmental Heroes program aims to bridge the gap between Austin’s shrinking tree canopy and the decrease in tree plantings. The AEH program is delivered in partnership between TreeFolks and Austin Youth River Watch, with the support of the City of Austin’s Urban Forest Grant Program.
The 2018 Heroes will meet one day per week from 7 am – 3 pm. Three of those hours will be dedicated to environmental fieldwork. Over the course of the summer, the students will water a total of 223 trees at 4 different parks and schools. You might ask, where are we going to find so much water at once? Well, with the help of our community, TreeFolks was able to Crowdsource $5,000 towards the purchase of our very own water trailer. Our mobile watering rig carries 1000 gallons of water, which would result in 30 gallons of water per tree using a bucket watering method.
When the students aren’t watering trees, they will be evaluating the tree’s health and learning how to monitor and maintain the needs of the trees on site. In addition to tree care, the students will learn how to test the water quality at several creeks and streams throughout the city. They will test: the air & water temperature, PH balance, dissolved oxygen levels, nitrate levels, and for specific conductance and turbidity. The data that is recorded from their analysis will be shared with the City of Austin, LCRA, and the general public.
Along with environmental field work, the Heroes will experience weekly enrichment activities including camping, swimming, canoeing, tree climbing, educational modules, and field experiences with green-collar professionals. Follow their stories this summer with the hashtag: #ATXEnviroHeroes