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Penn State Extension Berks County Welcomes New Program Coordinator

Penn State Extension Berks County Welcomes New Program Coordinator

Natalie Marioni joined the Penn State Extension education team last month as the new coordinator for the Master Gardener and Master Watershed Steward programs in Berks County.

While she is new to Penn State Extension’s stewardship programs, Natalie has enjoyed a long career in the sciences, first as a field biologist focused on monitoring reptiles and amphibians in aquatic habitats before transitioning to environmental and science education for the last nine years. Natalie relocated to Pennsylvania from Illinois where she was the Director of Environmental Education and Citizen Science for The National Great Rivers Research and Education Center. Throughout her time there, she is most proud of establishing the Swarovski Waterschool USA program on the Mississippi River. This program educates youth about their connection to local aquatic resources and their impacts on them, empowering students to assist their communities in becoming more aware of local and global water issues.

Natalie is looking forward to this new endeavor, saying that “being involved in programs that equip communities with tools and resources for sustainable, best practices that are accessible, rooted in science, and easy for people to employ has been one of my career goals for the last several years. The amazing Master Watershed Stewards and Master Gardeners are making real and tangible impacts that ripple throughout their communities and create a wonderful feedback loop of inspiration and change. I’m excited to be a part of that.”

The Master Gardener and Master Watershed Steward programs were initiated to support Penn State Extension’s educational programs in consumer horticulture and water resource topics, respectively, utilizing unbiased research-based information to educate the public and our communities on best practices. Volunteers in both programs develop their expertise through participation in educational training classes conducted by Penn State University faculty and Extension staff. Training classes for Berks County community members interested in becoming a volunteer occurs August through December each year with new Master Gardeners being trained in odd years and Master Watershed Stewards in even years. The Master Watershed Steward program in Berks County was established in 2017 and has 49 active volunteers contributing to projects and community outreach related to topics such as stream ecology and restoration, invasive plants, and stormwater management. Berks County has had an active Master Gardener program since 1982 with 141 current volunteers engaging with the public in a variety of ways including through speaker series, demonstration gardens, and furthering valuable science through their participation in the Penn State pollinator research program.

For more information about either program in Berks County or to request an application for the 2020 Master Watershed Steward training program, contact Natalie Marioni by telephone at 610-378-1327 or by email at [email protected]