Congratulations to the 2022 Urban Waters Learning Network Award Winners!


Our congratulations to the 2022 Urban Waters Learning Network awardees! These leaders have been chosen for recognition by their peers in the Urban Waters Learning Network (UWLN). The UWLN is a partnership of the national nonprofits River Network and Groundwork USA. The Urban Waters Learning Network Awards, sponsored by the US EPA, celebrate significant achievements of individuals who have improved urban waterways and worked to engage the neighborhoods around them.

Signature Award: Groundwork Hudson Valley

Groundwork Hudson Valley Green Team members restore and maintain the Saw Mill River in Yonkers, NY.
High-school aged youth leaders on the Groundwork Hudson Valley Green Team played a major role in daylighting the Saw Mill River in Yonkers, NY, in 2012, and they continue to maintain and beautify the river to this day.

The Signature Award goes to a person–or in this case, people–who contribute to the overall success of the Urban Waters Learning Network (UWLN) and its members by giving of their time to listen and respond to peers seeking their expertise and experience. Signature Award winners are approachable, connect peers working on similar projects, mentor others, model inclusion of many viewpoints, and inspire their peers to learn and grow together as experts. In the past, Groundwork Hudson Valley has shared their experiences with audiences at River Rally workshops, showcasing their work daylighting the Saw Mill River in Yonkers, NY and sharing their pioneering work on the NOAA-funded Climate Change curriculum offered to public high school students. 

This Signature Award also recognizes the work of Groundwork Hudson Valley’s youth leaders on the Green Team — high-school aged youth who work on a variety of restoration projects in the Hudson River watershed in Yonkers, NY and have regularly maintained and improved the Saw Mill River since the first daylighting phase was completed in 2012.

To read more about Groundwork Hudson Valley’s legacy of urban waters work, please see:

Melanie Gárate, Environmental Justice & Equity Expert

Melanie Gárate is the Climate Resiliency Manager for the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) in the Boston area. She began her career as a marine ecologist examining how people impact climate change. Through her research, she was struck by the disproportionate environmental impacts to low-income communities, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, which sparked her passion for environmental justice work. Now, her work focuses on increasing the resilience of people impacted by climate change. At MyRWA, she works with municipal staff, community based organizations, public health officials, and local residents to increase climate resiliency regionally. With community equity and health as a priority, she focuses on enhancing climate solutions within the watershed via nature based solutions and social change.

Prior to MyWRA, Melanie focused on coastal conservation and environmental education in the greater Boston area at Mass Audubon and the New England Aquarium. Melanie holds a Master of Science degree in Marine Ecology and Climate Change from the University of Rhode Island, where she obtained a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to study mangrove ecology and perform community outreach in Puerto Rico.

Andy Hyrcyna, Water Quality & Monitoring Expert

As the Watershed Scientist for the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) since 2014, Andy leads the water quality monitoring programs—including the successful baseline program—and manages multiple green infrastructure efforts to address stormwater pollution. Andy comes to MyRWA from the Sustainability and Environmental Management Program at Harvard Extension School, where he received a Master’s in Ecological Management.  Andy discovered a passion for ecology and environmental protection mid-career, after many years in non-profit book publishing. He now leads MyRWA’s water quality monitoring program and restoration efforts across the watershed. He enjoys biking and kayaking with his wife and two daughters.

Read more about MyRWA’s urban waters work:

Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership, Stormwater & Green Infrastructure Expert

The mission of the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership (VUSP) is to advance the evolving field of sustainable stormwater management and to foster the development of public and private partnerships through research. VUSP activities build on more than twenty years of GSI research, making them one of the leaders on the science and engineering of GSI. The achievements of the Villanova Engineering faculty in water research and the performance of students past and present serve the College’s belief that engineers have a moral obligation to pursue knowledge to address environmental and social threats and seek opportunities for both local and global change. Addressing these issues requires transformative engineering approaches that integrate resiliency-the ability to recover or rebound from trauma-into the design. Using the faculty’s expertise in Water Resources, Geotechnical, and Environmental science, VUSP is working to advance the science and understanding of water resiliency issues, such as urban and coastal flooding, watershed impact, estuary impact, and water supply issues through nature-based solutions. Read more about VUSP’s work and view past presentations. Amanda Garzio-Hadzick will represent VUSP at the UWLN Learning Forum at this year’s River Rally.

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