Mansfield University Junior, Spencer Zuraski Joins EPCAMR for Summer Internship in Watershed Management

Spencer Zuraski, native of Downingtown, in southeastern PA, just completed his Junior year at Mansfield University majoring in Geosciences with a concentration in Watershed Management and a minor in GIST Mapping and now will be spending his Summer in the Back Mountain, while travelling down into the Wyoming Valley to intern with EPCAMR for the Summer. He plays outfield for the collegiate Baseball team at Mansfield and is the President of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, a club dedicated to athletes’ well-being and to community outreach.  When he’s not working, studying, or playing baseball, he enjoys spending time in the outdoors including hiking, running, fishing, camping, and playing tennis.

Spencer Zuraski rock climbing and repelling into a canyon in New Zealand, in January of 2017.

He goes on to say, “I am especially excited to spend this Summer working with EPCAMR so I can learn more about what a career will be like in the non-profit environmental field, more specifically, in watershed management.  I am also excited to begin applying the information I learned from my professors, especially Dr. Jen Demchak.  Since I was a Freshman in the Fall of 2014, Dr. Demchak lauded the accomplishments of EPCAMR and the tremendous work they continue to do for stream restoration in the Anthracite and Bituminous coal regions of Pennsylvania for the last two decades.  I cannot wait to experience working alongside and with the EPCAMR team!” exclaimed Spencer.

“Spencer can expect to be jumping right into a large number of projects that we are currently undertaking for the Summer and will be expected to catch on quickly and have all hands ready to assist with our regional work. He’s been prepped and oriented on his first day on the internship to nearly a dozen or more projects that he will likely have to play some role in over the Summer months. Projects such as the Abrahams Creek Watershed Coldwater Heritage Plan, Hicks Creek Natural Stream Channel Design/Construction Project, Cleanup Our Anthracite Lands & Streams (COALS) Illegal Dumping Program, Coordination of our 19th Annual PA Abandoned Mine Reclamation Conference  in Wilkes-Barre, PA, From City Streets to Valley Streams Afterschool Youth “Take Me Fishing!” and Watershed Program, Plainsville AMD Borehole Monitoring, Waterboxx Phase III Research Coordination Project, Trout in the Classroom Education Program, Bird Boosters-Build A Birdhouse Wildlife Habitat Improvement Project, and our ARIPPA Mini-Grant Awards Program Coordination, to name a few, are numerous projects that are well underway that he’ll be able to assist the EPCAMR Staff on.” mentioned Robert E. Hughes, EPCAMR Executive Director.

Spencer came highly recommended from Dr. Jen Demchak, a long-time colleague and dear friend of the EPCAMR Executive Director that has just as many years of experience in AMD as Mr. Hughes, and they both were previous interns at the PA DEP Hawk Run District Mining Office, back in the early 90s, now the Moshannon District Mining Office. Dr. Demchak has presented at previous AMD Conferences coordinated by EPCAMR and was often seen at many of the same state-wide or regional conferences across PA that highlighted AMD remediation efforts. “Jen told me that he’s a great student and has a good head on his shoulders and is a well-rounded student-athlete who is familiar with some of the more common themes around environmental restoration and watershed management of AMD impacted watersheds from her field experience with him in the Tioga County mining impacted watersheds. It was an easy decision to bring him on board for the Summer after talking with her. I know she wouldn’t steer me wrong and I knew that any student that was going to reach out from her class to EPCAMR was going to be smart student with the breadth necessary to work with us right off the bat.” Robert emphasized.

Spencer, holding a canoe at the end of a portage on a fishing trip to Algonquin Park, in Ontario Canada, Summer 2016.

On his first day, Spencer was oriented to the EPCAMR Policy Manual, signed on officially as our Summer Watershed Outreach Intern, went on an inspection of two stormwater best management practices (infiltration trenches) being constructed in the City of Wilkes-Barre as a part of  a recently completed Green Action Plan developed by EPCAMR and LandStudies, signed  a waiver to go on a kayak trip next week on the Susquehanna River, and visited the Luzerne County Visitor’s Bureau to plan for our upcoming 19th Annual PA Abandoned Mine Reclamation Conference. These activities were all before lunch. Following lunch, he cleared a downed tree that was across the rear of our building, in preparation for our herb and butterfly garden that was previously mine spoil, and he researched prices for several supplies for our Downspout Disconnect Workshops to reduce stormwater runoff throughout the residential urban areas within the City that are causing flooding concerns, planned for the Summer in the City of Wilkes-Barre, funded under our National Fish & Wildlife Foundation Technical Assistance Grant EPCAMR prepared that was awarded to the City of Wilkes-Barre with our partner, LandStudies. He also was able to quickly locate some cheap and cost effective rainbarrels/food containers that we’ll be given away at the workshops.

Rainbarrels

“I had mentioned to him that we tend to juggle multiple projects at any given time, so he was forewarned about the variety of work and the constantly changing tasks that will evolve from each of the projects. Each project comes with their own unique set of challenges, opportunities, and hurdles. The satisfaction comes when you overcome those obstacles and successfully complete the projects at any cost within budget and a reasonable time frame and are able to educate the public and gain additional volunteers for community projects that we undertake in the coalfields. I think Spencer will fit in well and is up for the challenge that a small non-profit faces on a daily basis, yet somehow still manage to produce quality projects, programs, events, and educational opportunities for our youth and coalfield impacted communities. He’ll be averaging around 24 hours a week, and some more hours on occasion, as he is hoping to land a part-time job while he is dorming with some college roommates out at my alma mater’s off-campus housing near Penn-State Wilkes-Barre. Ironically, he’s staying in the same dormitory that I lived in while attending Penn-State Wilkes-Barre before transferring to the Main Campus. I expect him to do well and the fact that our other part-time Watershed Outreach Specialist is a former collegiate baseball player as well that he’ll be working along side of on a lot of projects, will allow him to talk shop and baseball too!” exclaimed Robert.

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