Alumna Works to Preserve New York City’s Ecological History and Future
Although she did not major in Environmental Studies while an undergraduate at St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at St. John’s University, as an alumna, Tina Walsh ’10C maintains a close connection to alma mater and the University’s Environmental Studies program. She is the Senior Director of Education and Outreach for Hudson River Park and regularly invites students in Paula Kay Lazrus, Ph.D.,’s classes to participate in the park’s educational programming.
Hudson River Park’s waters are a 400-acre marine sanctuary on the west side of Manhattan, NY, where old shipping piers have been rebuilt into parkland and the water between the piers is a designated sanctuary.
“The water informs everything that I do,” she said. “Our research, education, and mentorship all tie back to that body of water.”
Now in her eighth year at Hudson River Park, Ms. Walsh has held four positions there, beginning as an Environmental Educator and working her way up to her current role as Senior Director. Her primary responsibility is supporting the park’s education and outreach initiatives, inviting students and members of the general public to build an understanding of the Hudson River estuary.
“People often have negative preconceived notions about the water in New York City, but I teach them how to love it,” she said. “We have a thriving ecosystem with more than 70 different species of fish, including seahorses!”
Students come to the park to learn about the tidal system that causes the river’s brownish coloring and measure the water’s overall health using scientific equipment. In addition to educational initiatives, Ms. Walsh also spearheads public programs to engage the community in local research, including shoreline cleanups and oyster monitoring. She also works to further the park’s various research initiatives that include detection of microplastics in the water and measuring fish populations.
In her role as supervisor of a team of 10 to 18 interns at the high school and college level, Ms. Walsh works to nurture the “next generation of scientists” and create opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers for historically underrepresented students. Her group of interns has included several St. John’s alumni who were introduced to the park through field trips in Dr. Lazrus’s classes.
While at St. John’s, Ms. Walsh pursued a premedical career path before realizing that health care was not the right fit for her. She took a gap year after graduation to reflect on her goals and ended up pursuing an internship with the Student Conservation Association.
“It was a powerful experience that rooted me in the environmental community and solidified my commitment to environmental justice,” she said.
Ms. Walsh pursued other positions at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, NY, and at the Center for the Urban River at Beczak in Yonkers, NY. In both roles, she was able to explore her interests in mentorship and building bridges to the community, experiences that have served her well in her current position.
She has also drawn upon the experiences and values she gained at St. John’s. Ms. Walsh, who grew up in Bethpage, NY, came to St. John’s as a Presidential Scholar and part of the University Honors Program because she wanted to be close to New York City, but benefit from a welcoming campus environment.
“There were 10 students in my chemistry class during my first year, which was not the typical experience my friends at other universities were having,” she said. “I never felt like just a number.”
Ms. Walsh grew to love St. John’s emphasis on service and the opportunity to explore interests outside of her major. As a participant in the Discover the World program, she was able to travel and make lifelong friendships.
“Thanks to my academic and professional experiences, I have been able to pursue my passion for promoting public environmental education in New York City,” she said. “I truly love what I do, and I am very grateful for all of the opportunities that St. John’s offered to help me succeed.”