TREE Foundation's Summer College Interns to Present Webinar on Environmental Justice & Forest Conservation

The Giving Coast

BY BRITTANY MATTIE SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY JUL 22, 2020

Lilia Robinowitz, Eva Castagna and Evan Wright from Williams College, Massachusetts, along with Merry Moore from University of Southern California, were chosen as the four college students to participate in TREE Foundation’s summer intern program. TREE—short for Tree Research, Exploration & Education—is a Sarasota-based organization that is trailblazing the path to protect the world’s natural wonders and spread awareness on the most sustainable environmental practices.

This year however, due to Covid-19, research travel and in-person learning have shifted to a virtual platform, much like everything else. "Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, many undergraduates found themselves without meaningful employment this summer,” says Dr. Margaret Lowman, Director of TREE. “Thanks to generous funding from Williams College and local donors, the TREE Foundation was thrilled to hire college interns to work with us virtually." Accordingly, the young arborists in training have been collaborating and meeting weekly via Zoom with Dr. Lowmancompiling the students' research findings from their eight-week internship to present in a free webinar, facilitated by Williams College. The webinar will cover topics ranging from worldwide canopy walkways, sloths, rainforest preservation, forest conservation and environmental justice.  

"My favorite part of this internship has been interviewing park rangers and managers of walkways all over the world,” shares Castagna, a rising junior studying Biology. “I hope the information I've collected will help convince park rangers and government officials that canopy walkways can be a great source of sustainable income and that they're fantastic for protecting the environment as well."

"It was a fantastic opportunity for these budding environmental students to connect with people from places such as Australia, the Amazon, Africa, and Asia, to collaborate on issues that affect the health of our planet and all of humanity," says Dr. Lowman. "Our planet needs scientists and earth detectives more than ever right now, perhaps even more so because of the rising occurrence of global pandemics.”

The students' efforts are directly helping to leverage a new TREE program: Mission Green, which will sponsor ten canopy walkways in the highest biodiversity forests of the world— providing stewardship from a trifecta combination of education, economy and ecology. Mission Green will not only create education and research sites for future students, but provide employment to indigenous people from ecotourism instead of logging. "The Mission Green program had its genesis with the construction of the Williams College canopy walkway in 1991 (the first one in North America), which was followed in 1999 by the first public canopy walkway in Myakka State Park in Sarasota, Florida," says Dr. Lowman. The two skywalks in conversation have since been used as exemplary models to deploy others much like them around the world. Today, they are still an application to promote conservation and environmental justice.

The one-hour Zoom webinar will take place July 29, 5:30pm - 6:30pm, and requires advance registration, found here.

Pictured: TREE's summer interns and Dr. Lowman meeting virtually to share updates on their respective summer projects.

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