The ​Open Space Institute Recognizes Young Hudson Valley Environmental and Cultural Leaders

NEW YORK, NY (April 19, 2018)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced recipients of the 2018 Barnabas McHenry Hudson Valley Awards, honoring exceptional young leaders who are working to protect and enhance the Hudson River Valley. The four recipients, who represent communities throughout the Hudson Valley, will work this summer with prominent community nonprofits.

OSI established the McHenry Awards in 2007 to honor the extensive contributions of its Trustee Barnabas McHenry, a renowned environmental philanthropist and conservationist. Funded by an endowment raised by OSI, the awards go to graduate and undergraduate students pursuing research, leadership, and community involvement in the Hudson Valley.

“The winners of OSI’s McHenry Award represent the bright future of the Hudson Valley. Each year we are delighted by the applicants, their project ideas, and their passion to improve their communities,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “Through educational, conservation, and cultural projects, these young leaders are adding to Barney McHenry’s amazing legacy of dedication to the Hudson Valley.”

Every year, OSI makes awards of up to $5,000 to each graduate or undergraduate student to partner with regional nonprofits in the fields of environmental conservation, historic preservation, the arts, and tourism, with $1,000 going to the partnering institution. Currently, OSI is fundraising to add a fifth category, healthy communities, to the award categories in order to directly engage and respond to the interests of student leaders. 

Since 2007, OSI has committed nearly $247,000 to 46 McHenry Award grantees working in support of the Hudson Valley.

The 2018 recipients of the McHenry Awards and their project descriptions are as follows: 

Robert Celestin will work with the New York—New Jersey Trail Conference to build a comprehensive and shareable database integrating regional invasive plant data from several environmental agencies. The database will use geographic mapping software to enable more efficient invasive species management, allow better tracking and planning for control efforts, and provide accurate distribution data for early detection surveys to help preserve the biodiversity of the Lower Hudson region. Robert is studying Information Technology at Marist College.

Zachary Henderson will work with Palisades Park Conservancy to make the William A. Welch archival collections publicly accessible. Zachary’s work will shed light on Mr. Welch’s role in developing National Parks and in making the Hudson Valley the birthplace of the environmental movement in the United States. After completing the collection and digitization of these archives, he will disseminate and share them online. Zachary is a History major at Ramapo College of NJ. He was nominated by and will work with a 2009 McHenry Award winner, Mathew Shook.

Christian Liriano will work with Friends of Van Cortland Park to conduct an ecological assessment of six acres of forest bordering Tibbett's Brook within Van Cortlandt Park in the northwest region of the Bronx. Christian will conduct a pre-assessment of the flora and fauna in the forest, remove invasive plants, and create a biodiversity database to help park scientists better understand the biodiversity of disturbed lands. The final result will be a management plan that establishes invasive species removal protocols and the creation of a partnership with the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park to actively remove invasive vegetation. An aspiring taxonomist from the Bronx, Christian currently attends Hostos Community College.

Amanda Samuels will work with the University at Albany in collaboration with Stockbridge-Munsee and the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer to develop educational materials on archaeology and historic preservation. According to the applicant, many archaeology courses are taught solely from a western science perspective and students researching Native American heritage are not well-prepared to collaborate with indigenous organizations. This project will develop materials to be used in the University at Albany’s courses, will address those educational gaps, and will serve as a model for other universities. Amanda is a second-semester PhD candidate at the University at Albany.

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