I grew up surrounded by trees. I remember as a young girl often taking walks through Edwards Gardens with my grandfather, always running up to each tree we came across to feel the texture of the bark or trying to jump high enough to touch the leaves. I was unaware of their importance but fascinated by their majestic form and incredible beauty. The weeping willow was and continues to be one of my favorites! Its long pendulous branches offered a magical environment for my imagination to run wild.
I always saw trees as strong, protective and able to withstand just about anything. They provide a habitat for a variety of species, protect us from harmful UV rays, cleanse the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and increase our mental health and happiness, just to name a few benefits!
As I learned more about trees, I started to see that they weren't always resilient beings. They needed protection too. I joined LEAF as a volunteer to find out how I could help the urban forest and foster and appreciation for trees. LEAF is brilliant with their ability to engage, educate and inspire individuals and communities to actively participate in the enhancement of our urban forest- including myself! As a LEAF Garden Steward, Outreach Volunteer and Tree Tender Graduate, I dedicated my time to educating people about all things trees!
My urge to explore diverse natural environments led me to travel to places like Costa Rica, UK, Thailand and Guatemala where I witnessed beautiful forests with rich canopies. Earlier this year I volunteered for a lake conservation project in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala focusing on waste management and maintaining the lake’s surrounding gardens and naturalized spaces. During my travels, I explored the ancient ruins of Tikal, hiked up a volcano and trekked through dense jungles where I was introduced to stunning native tree and plant species such as the Ceiba Tree. After an incredible adventure, it was time to come home and focus on protecting our native species!
This year I am lucky enough to be working for LEAF as the Residential Planting Programs Assistant. I am so excited to be able to contribute to our urban forest with this dedicated team of people who work hard to protect our trees, because without trees, the world as we know it wouldn’t exist!
Natasha is LEAF’s Residential Planting Programs Assistant.