Penns Valley Logo

[updated 04-03-18]

About Us - Staff Bios

Environmental Educator — Jim Flanagan

Three weeks after I was born, I was already boating with my family on the Allegheny River in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, wearing a handmade life vest and smiling.  I guess you can say I was raised on the water and in nature and have been hooked ever since.  Growing up in Pittsburgh I remember playing in the woods behind our house, fishing with my Dad, and spending nearly every weekend on the Allegheny River exploring the water and its environs.   I remember looking for tiny toads, playing in the surf of boats and barges as they traveled the river and sitting around the campfires on the beach.

These images have stayed with me as I grew up and moved from place to place.  I was fortunate enough to spend my teen years on the west side of Cleveland near Lake Erie, attended college in southern Ohio at Miami University to study business marketing (BS 1990), and stumbled into Environmental Education after graduation.
My first job after graduation was at an overnight camp that ran programs for school children K-7 in the spring and fall and I loved it.  Realizing I could not spend my post graduate life working only two seasons, I decided on obtaining a graduate degree in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Montana (MA 1997).  During these studies I was drawn to people’s interactions with their environment and have worked in education exploring these interconnections ever since.

Oddly enough, my interest in anthropology led me to New York City to further pursue my education in Anthropology, but soon found myself working at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx managing the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden and training high school students and other volunteers to teach hands-on plant science to visitors of all ages.  Even though I eventually left this position to become a stay-at- home dad, the opportunity to work with the staff and visitors taught me valuable lessons about how people interact and experience the environment around them.  This opportunity will play a key role in helping me determine what PVCA needs to do in order to get Penns Valley students and the community at large to continue to explore their wonderful and diverse surroundings.

For the past 10 years I have continued to work in education and with the environment at the  South Mountain YMCA, Montclair State University (adjunct professor) and locally at Shaver’s Creek, Stone Valley, Millbrook Marsh and even a couple of volunteer days at Muddy Paws.  I am eager to continue exploring my passion for inspiring people to meaningfully engage with their environment as a steward for PVCA.  I look forward to working with the Penns Valley students and community and sharing the beautiful Upper Penns Valley Watershed with my family, which along with my wife Steph includes two nature-loving children (11 and 8), a lazy cat and a dog who loves to hike.     

Watershed Restoration and Protection PROJECT MANAGER — Andrea Ferich

Andrea Ferich grew up in Southern Lancaster County near the rolling riparian river hills of the Susquehanna. Her family has lived in South Central PA for centuries, a long line of farmers traced to a deed with William Penn and a Quaker ancestor in Chester County, and long before that along the waterways before Penn called these his woods. Most recently, she came from Camden, NJ , where she previously ran a non-profit called the Center For Environmental Transformation. There she worked collaboratively to establish an heirloom seedling greenhouse, native plant nursery for storm water management plans and, with a crew of budding young entrepreneurs, fabricated other sustainable products such as rain barrels, sustainable farming curriculums, a farmers market, and a 24 bed retreat center that had formerly been an abandoned convent. She has fallen in love with these valleys of the Uppers Penns Creek Watershed, the communities, the water, stars, and sky, every unnamed ephemeral stream, the forests, and the thriving local economy. Andrea studied Ecological Economics at Eastern University and worked for a watershed organization in Central America deep in the tropical rainforests of Belize, and various CSA farm projects around the region over the years.

Andrea finds great pleasure in collaborative problem solving, and will continue contemplating the intersection of what the Upper Penns Creek Watershed ecosystems, communities, and economy need most with the thought of what brings us the most joy. For her, that is often found at the intersection of art and science, often in the transformation of problems into resources, always in collaboration with people of all ages. Indeed we cannot attempt this great work alone. She notes: "I find much life working with youth and community-based restoration projects, happiest with my hands in the earth with and an array of partners and co-conspirators in PVCA initiatives. I am a film-maker and published author, I love to bicycle, and have never turned down a swimmable body of water.

It is a lovely privilege to reimmerse myself with the pristine stillness of the wild, and I am finding a deep peace naming ephemeral unnamed springs of the karst topography, and the mysteries of macro-invertebrates. Already I have been hooked in the cross-stitch of a thriving local economy with clean water as its backbone."

Andrea most recently received the EPA Environmental Quality Award, the Camden 2012 Woman of Purpose Award, and the Camden Smart Environmental Hero Award. She now lives at Over the Moon Farm in Rebersburg.

[update 11-20-15]

You may be wondering-- "what about Andrea?"

Over the last three years I have thoroughly enjoyed leading this organization to the next level through collaborative strategic development. I am not leaving the organization, rather am working to grow PVCA laterally, I am not stepping down, but stepping to the side. I have been offered and accepted a position as a Graduate Assistant in Department of Ecosystem Science and Management at Penn State, pursuing a dual degree title in Forest Management and Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and the Environment. I will be working in the Water Resources Lab, and teaching. My research at PSU will be applied Watershed Management focused in the Upper Penns Creek Watershed around water quality and riparian landowner knowledge, attitudes, and behavior.

I will be working with the new Executive Director and the PVCA Board of Directors as Project Manager of our Watershed Restoration and Protection efforts over the next year, and consulting in the continued transition and sustainability of the organization. It has been a pleasure to serve and work with you in the capacity of Executive Director, and I greatly look forward to our new seasons together.