Chesapeake Conservation Corps Member impacts Heritage Area through Pollinator Projects

Each year, Susquehanna National Heritage Area welcomes a Chesapeake Conservation Corps Member to our team. The Conservation Corps program is operated by the Chesapeake Bay Trust in order to increase access to green careers. Educating and training the next generation of stewards on how best to manage and protect our environment is crucial to restoring our region’s natural resources. Young adults are placed with nonprofit or government agencies for one-year terms of service in the Chesapeake Bay region. Susquehanna NHA hosts a Corps member each year thanks to our relationship with the NPS Chesapeake Bay Office that supplies the funding.

For 2018-2019, we welcomed Amy Kochel. She was a recent graduate of Juniata College where she studied Environmental Science. She had experience in aquatic ecology and environmental education. Amy is passionate about streams and rivers, and anything that lives in them. Amy completed and supported a variety of programs and projects during her time with Susquehanna National Heritage Area. Her mentor at SNHA was Paul Nevin, our Zimmerman Center Manager.


Amy completed a Meaningful Watershed Environmental Education grant project with the 4th grade classes at York Academy Regional Charter School in the York City. The elementary school is located across the street from the Codorus Creek, allowing for a great outdoor educational experience. Amy led an in-classroom activity about watersheds and had students work together to build a watershed model. The class also did stream study at the Codorus Creek and the students determined the health of the water using chemical and physical tests. Amy then helped the students to plant a pollinator habitat on their playground. Amy designed the pollinator garden and coordinated with a local nursery to get the 150 plants needed to fill the space. Students learned about the importance of pollinator wildlife and ways that plants can reduce soil runoff into waterways. The students also committed to caring for the garden and signed up to weed and water the garden weekly including over the summer months.

As a conclusion, the students attended a field trip with Susquehanna NHA at the Zimmerman Center for Heritage where they investigated the health of a nearby stream to learn more about the Susquehanna River and compared it to their local stream in the city. Students completed the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail Junior Ranger book and were sworn in as Junior Rangers at the end of the day. As part of the swearing in ceremony, students committed to continue learning about the landscape, plants, animals, and history of the river region.

At the SNHA Zimmerman Center property, Amy helped to enhance the information and interpretation of native species. She located, flagged, identified, and labeled native wildflowers along the hiking trail that leads to Native Lands County Park. Her work along the riverfront removed invasive species from the rain garden in order for more native plants to grow. In the fall, Amy caught and tagged monarch butterflies and created an informative area at the Zimmerman Center’s welcome desk for visitors to learn more about the monarch migration and the importance of native milkweed. Over the winter, she researched more about the native species that were present before Europeans arrived in Pennsylvania. Utilizing research from local archaeological digs that were done near the Susquehanna River, Amy then compared the findings to the types of plant and animal species that are found today.

In the spring, Amy created a pollinator garden alongside Susquehanna NHA’s rain garden. Throughout the year, Amy developed a site plan to determine the area of the garden and how many plants would be needed. She ordered the plants and advertised a planting day to find volunteers to help plant the garden. With the help of volunteers, she planted 300 native plants from 15 different species. A brochure was also created for visitors to learn more about pollinators and pollinator gardens.

In August 2019, Amy Kochel’s tenure with Susquehanna NHA came to an end. Her time in the Chesapeake Conservation Corps advanced her knowledge and leadership skills. We were proud to be her mentor through the process. She has since earned a permanent position with the Nature’s Classroom Institute as an Environmental Educator in Wisconsin.