After two years working with Forterra, outgoing Stewardship Associate, Mariska Kecskes, is prone to nightmares about invasive plants – like knotweed being planted in her front yard or a tattoo of a Western hemlock being mistakenly inked on her arm as English ivy.
In the past year as our AmeriCorps Individual Placement, Mariska lead over 900 volunteers to complete over 63,000 square feet of restoration and maintenance and install over 1,000 native trees and shrubs. She spent her first year with Forterra as part of the restoration crew with Washington Conservation Corps, ripping out invasive species throughout the Puget Sound region.
Mariska is busy wrapping up loose ends during her last few days with Forterra but took some time to answer a few questions.
First things first. Do you like eating blackberries anymore?
Yes. I like to think that by eating blackberries, I’m preventing birds from eating them and spreading them everywhere.
Why did you decide to work a second year with Forterra?
I have always been impressed by Forterra’s holistic approach to environmental issues so I applied to their Stewardship Associate – AmeriCorps Individual Placement position. I believe that it’s important to not just focus on one isolated issue.
What was rewarding about your job?
It was great to see the progress that can be made during one work party. You start with a huge blackberry bush patch and by the end feel so accomplished. It helps you feel proactive about restoration and understand why maintaining a healthy habitat in and outside of the city is a long but necessary process.
What is challenging about your job?
Sometimes it’s hard to detach myself from my restoration work. Driving along I-5 is a struggle now because I look around and can’t help but get stressed out by the amount of weeds along the highway.
What’s something cool you’ve learned?
I’m happy that I’m able to identify so many plants. Not only does it impress colleagues, turns out it’s also a great way to impress dates on hikes! Nothing makes you an object of desire like pointing out all the edible wild berries or saving someone from a stinging nettle.
Before you leave us, do you have any tips to share?
First, if you ever take part in restoration – as a volunteer or otherwise – try to visit the site again in the future. It is really gratifying to watch your impact literally grow and it helps you understand the importance of the work you did. Second, when you spend a lot of time pulling blackberry bushes and have endless scratches, it’s easiest to just tell people that you have angry cats.
Mariska will be heading to graduate school for an MSc in Environmental Science & Policy at Central European University. We wish her the best of luck and thank her for her incredible two years of service! If you or someone you know is interested in joining Forterra’s Restoration Crew through the Washington Conservation Corps, check out WCC’s website for more information!