Giovanna Gonzalez is just finishing up her summer in the trees. Giovanna has been working as an intern with the Conservancy's Tree Crew, learning the ins, outs, ups and downs of caring for the Park's 21,500 trees. Her two summer internships with the Conservancy, this summer and last, have excited for and prepared her to study Horticulture and Arboriculture at the Pennsylvania State University when she matriculates this fall. In addition to her two summers with the Conservancy, Giovanna volunteered her time this spring to participate in the Conservancy's Saturday ROOTS program, learning about urban forest ecosystems by mulching rustic terrain, removing invasive species and planting tree saplings.
Giovanna's passion for trees is a recent outgrowth of a love for plants and horticulture. Three years ago, she began a summer job at the New York Botanical Garden. "It sparked something really great in me," she said, "I loved it. It was my first time working with dirt and plants." The next year she worked with the Conservancy's Horticulture team, and after seeing the Tree Crew at work she knew that she wanted to spend her next summer in the branches.
Giovanna spent a year preparing for the challenging work, both at the gym and the library. In addition to climbing trees, securing large limbs and executing safe cuts, the care of a tree requires specialized knowledge to identify problems and think holistically about how any action could affect the rest of the tree and its neighbors. "During the year I just read up on a lot of things, signed out some books from the library, and was doing pushups in gym class," Giovanna says. "Since I knew this would be my last year as an intern, I didn’t want to spend so much time with them teaching me the basics. I wanted to know at least, 'I can make this cut this way,' and have some prior knowledge." She's never missed out on an opportunity to learn more, even coming into work the day after having her wisdom teeth extracted.
Among the tree crew's important tasks is identifying Dutch elm disease. Leaves first yellow and wither prematurely at the crown of the tree, in areas that would go unnoticed without vigilant observance. Identifying this early is essential in order to prevent the spread of the disease to other elms and to save the infected tree. The disease has decimated the population of American elm trees in the United States, and the Park's stand of mature American elms is one of the last remaining in the country. Giovanna has learned one lesson especially from responsibilities like this: "Pay attention to everything. Details matter when it comes to working with trees. Every little inch, there are so many details that go into doing just one job at a site."
Giovanna is thankful for the support of her crew. "I think that's what has helped me the most this summer, the fact that they've been just so supportive and patient with me."
Learn more about the Conservancy's youth programs. To appreciate the hard work of Giovanna and her crew in person, take one of our free volunteer-led woodland tours the Ramble, North Woods or Hallett Nature Sanctuary. You can also volunteer with our Horticulture team.
Calvert Vaux created the miniature castle in 1869 as one of its many whimsical structures intended as a lookout to the reservoir to the north (now the Great Lawn) and the Ramble to the south.