A Reflection on the Water Center's Time with the Philadelphia Green Ambassadors at Overbrook Environmental Education Center

Group photo of the Philly Green Ambassadors

By: Jazmin Ricks and Bo Nash

Image of the Green Ambassadors and Overbrook staff collecting water in Cobbs Creek
Image of the Green Ambassadors and Overbrook staff collecting water in Cobbs Creek. Photo courtesy of the Green Ambassaors. 


For 10 weeks, the Water Center at Penn was immersed in a collaboration with the Overbrook Environmental Education Center (OEEC)’s Philadelphia Green Ambassadors (PGA).  Our programming delved into the realms of water quality monitoring, combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and pollution, advocacy and environmental justice, and integrated active chemical and biological testing in and around the Cobbs Creek watershed with data science, spatial mapping, and water policy. Our aim was to empower the PGA Corps with knowledge about the intricacies of water and its intersection with the community. Together, we conducted extensive research, sharing insights into the challenges faced by residents, particularly those surrounding Cobbs Creek park. The program aimed to promote a sense of shared understanding for how individual actions contribute to the overall health of our water systems. Hands-on learning was at the forefront of our approach. We actively engaged in chemical and biological testing, determining water quality standards at key locations within Cobbs Creek and its vicinity. From July to December, the Water Center maintained an active monitoring schedule at the park, with the Green Ambassadors taking the reins during the latter half of the sampling period. Additionally, the Corps was integral in interpreting, analyzing, and visualizing all six months of data to best support the ongoing research and monitoring efforts at the park.

Photo taken from the bridge at Cobbs Creek park
Photo taken from the bridge at Cobbs Creek park. Photo courtesy of the Green Ambassaors. 


The culmination of our collaboration was marked by a grand closing ceremony on January 12, 2024. This event showcased the results of our endeavors through an interactive ESRI story map, co-created by the Green Ambassadors, the Water Center, American Rivers, Villanova University, the Philadelphia Water Department and other invaluable partners. Each Ambassador took the stage and presented a core component of the program to an engaged audience of partners who played a vital role in the success of the Green Ambassadors initiative.The Green Ambassadors program exemplified the power of community science. By involving the PGA in monitoring and addressing environmental issues, we not only shed a light on the impaired water quality of urban streams but also demonstrated another avenue to actively participating in the stewardship of their surroundings by linking their observations to data. The data collected by the Ambassadors contributed to a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by the Cobbs Creek watershed and the interpretation of findings directly aligned with each Ambassador’s personal interests. 

Image of the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) near Naylor’s Run at Cobbs Creek Park
Image of the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) near Naylor’s Run at Cobbs Creek Park. Photo courtesy of the Green Ambassadors.

The Water Center extends its heartfelt gratitude to Overbrook Environmental Education Centers Director, Jerome Shabazz, and its core staff. The success of the Green Ambassadors initiative would not have been possible without the support of the Overbrook community. The Center’s commitment to education, environmental awareness, and community engagement was instrumental in creating a positive and lasting impact on the Cobbs Creek watershed. As we reflect on the 10 weeks of shared learning and discovery, we look forward to continuing our mission of environmental education and ultimately promoting stewardship for our local water bodies.

View the story map created by the Green Ambassadors here >


    Research Focus

  • Community Capacity Building & Water Equity
  • Water’s Role in Environmental Health
  • Water Leadership
  • Flood Risk Stormwater Management
About Jazmin Ricks and Bo Nash

Jazmin Ricks' professional journey can aptly be described as just that—a "journey." Whether through teaching, writing, or researching, the health of vulnerable communities and the strengthening of community-based organizations have always served as a guiding light along the way. Jazmin holds a Master of Public Health from the University of Pennsylvania's Environmental Health program, and her professional interests revolve around the field of Environmental Epidemiology and its impact on public health due to physical, biological, and chemical factors. She enjoys exploring these avenues through data analysis, mapping, and applied projects, using equitable frameworks to support her work.

As a Senior Research Program Coordinator at the Water Center, Jazmin supports the Director of Programs and Applied Research in overseeing the center's applied research and programming efforts to advance environmental equity and build resilience at all scales in the face of climate change. Jazmin's work, spanning both national and international contexts, revolves around reorienting collaborative efforts towards communities most affected. She also focuses on building networks and promoting sustainability through transparency and trust to facilitate transformative change.

Bo Nash is entering his second year in the Master of Environmental Studies program here at UPenn. He is concentrating on Resource Management with the goal of conserving and restoring aquatic ecosystems at the stream and watershed level. Bo looks forward to working with the Water Center in educating youth on environmental sciences and piloting a stream monitoring system in Cobbs Creek.