An Intern’s Inspiration

EPA photo/Kasia Broussalian

By Kasia Broussalian 

Greening the Apple has come a long way in the nearly two years since its inception. Back then, there were three of us—and me just an intern—crafting ideas for a blog in the public affairs office of Region 2.  Still a new concept for federal government agencies, our blog proposal was answered with a few confused looks. But after its launch in March 2011, our plan to tell the green side of New York City inspired others across the public sector, including myself. I took much of what I learned while at the EPA with me; guiding my current project as the host of Research Radio, a podcast series from The New School in New York.

My interest in the environment started in college. As a photojournalism student at the University of Colorado, I focused most of my school projects and freelance work on water issues in the western United States. I spent a few months traveling the Colorado River, hopping over divots in a potato field in the Teton Valley of Idaho, and on a horse-drawn sleigh feeding cattle with a rancher on the Yampa River in Colorado. All of which prompted me to intern at EPA while finishing my Master’s degree. Now as a writer at The New School—where a great environmental studies program offers many exciting ventures that engage with the world around us—I’m still trying to find new ways to tell stories about the green side of the city. This time, it’s through a radio podcast with one of the university’s professors. (Read below for an episode summary, as well as a link to the podcast).

Million Trees NYC (EPA photo/Kasia Broussalian)

When it comes to the competition for real estate between nature and New York, many assume that nature lost years ago, when the boroughs’ green forest was steadily edged out by concrete.  However, those dubbing the city as a concrete jungle need a reality check; New York has a wild side—an amazing array of diverse plants and creatures often overlooked in this metropolis—and it’s not entirely by accident. Initiatives like PLANYC’s Million Trees NYC project actively work to promote and maintain the city as an ecological hot spot.

This effort is the topic of Research Radio’s latest podcast, “The City’s Jungles; Not Quite Concrete.” Research Radio recently met with Timon McPhearson, assistant professor of ecology at The New School for Public Engagement.  McPhearson, whose research focuses on urban ecosystems, has been spending his summers and falls in the city’s parks. People may connect the Big Apple with iconic landmarks like the Empire State building and Rockefeller Center, but its heart is still green.

For the past three years, McPhearson and his students have been measuring tree growth and management practices in collaboration with the city’s Million Trees NYC initiative. Though the project’s main goal is to plant a million trees by 2017, another is to create a more sustainable and diverse urban forest. McPhearson’s lab documents the initiative’s progress not only on the health of the newly planted trees, but also on whether levels of biodiversity are increasing.

Click here to listen to the podcast.