Participating in the Chesapeake Conservation Corps (Corps) is a unique experience. We are showcasing the individual Conservation Corps members in the 2019-2020 cohort along with information on their host site and descriptions of the incredible work they are doing. This month’s featured Corps member: Emma O’Donnell.
Emma O’Donnell considers herself a lifelong advocate for the environment, which is why she attended Washington College, known in the region for its immersive environmental programming. Emma graduated last spring majoring in Environmental Studies and double minoring in Anthropology and Chesapeake Regional Studies. Interning with the National Aquarium in Baltimore, The Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, and The Delaware Center for Inland Bays, Emma became even more interested in the field as she worked her way through college. Emma was drawn to the Corps program because it provides invaluable experience to young adults and would allow her to work on leadership skills throughout the year.
Carrie Murray Nature Center (Nature Center), an entity of the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, is located inside of Gwynn’s Falls Leakin Park and is part of Baltimore City’s Division of Recreation and Parks. The park is the largest urban wilderness park east of the Mississippi and the third-largest in the United States serving over 30,000 visitors annually. The Nature Center was created through the generous donation of former Oriole’s hall-of-fame player Eddie Murray, dedicated to his mother, Carrie. The mission of the Nature Center is to ensure that all children can connect to nature through environmental education and leadership. While the programs at the park have changed this summer, the park is open as an escape from the big city for those looking to connect to nature. Thanks to Emma’s hard work, the Nature Center itself is now the first public entity in Baltimore City registered as a Maryland Green Center by the Maryland Association of Environmental & Outdoor Education (M.A.E.O.E).
Emma takes pride in her work with the center, serving as an environmental educator (naturalist). Prior to Covid-19, she facilitated programs like “Every Kid Outdoors” (EKO) which is a National Park initiative and “Aqua Partners” a field trip program in partnership with the National Aquarium and Maryland Public Television (MPT). These and many other programs are provided to assure children from Baltimore City have an opportunity to discover nature every day. Assisting in the daily maintenance of the animals housed at the facility is another part of her job. The Nature Center is home to 19 rescued and rehabilitated animals that broaden the environmental education experiences visiting students receive and are often a highlight for those who are passionate about animals.
As her capstone project, Emma took the lead on completing the M.A.E.O.E. Green Center Application for the year 2020. Emma will continue work removing invasive species solo as part of her capstone, which had to be modified due to public safety restrictions. The certification recognizes facilities that demonstrate overall sustainability efforts, exhibit best management practices in daily operation, offer effective environmental education and professional development to all appropriate age groups, and uphold overall sustainable ideals for themselves and their staff. Currently there only 42 Certified Green Centers in the region. Nature Center staff are committed to sustaining such practices for the betterment of our environment, future generations, and Baltimore City.
Emma said she is thankful to be included in so many fantastic initiatives and embraced by the staff of the Nature Center who are constantly helping her evolve to become a better employee, environmentalist, and citizen. She also stated that serving as a Corps member has heightened her passion for the Chesapeake Region and she feels fortunate to work alongside other corps members. Emma looks forward to nurturing all the relationships that she has built in the program as she knows they will aid in her personal growth and professional opportunities. The current Corps class is set to graduate in August, although the ceremony may not be in person as usual.