Blog Post By Jona Elwell

Fresh Faces at the Casey Trees HQ

We’ve got some fresh faces here at 3030 12th Street. While Melinda and Brittany will be doing vastly different day to day tasks, they share the same Casey Trees mission: to restore, enhance and protect our dear capital. Which one attended a volunteer event and was inspired to apply? Find out below.

Melinda Peters (Left) is our new Director of Education. She will be at many of our classes and planting this fall, so be sure to introduce yourself in the field! 

Casey Trees (CT): Welcome to Casey Trees! Tell us, who is Melinda?
Melinda Peters (MP): I’m a southern Virginian who grew up in the mountains of a tiny town (with lots of trees).  I then headed to James Madison University to study Biology, where I ended up focusing on botany. This led me to North Carolina State University, where I received a Master’s degree while working on a federally endangered species of Echinacea (smooth coneflower). After that, I headed to Cambridge, Massachusetts for a pretty interesting gig with the Harvard University Herbaria (millions of dried botanical specimens used to document the flora on earth). While working in the collection, I pursued a Master’s in Museum Studies at Harvard University and focused on education in living botanical collections. After hanging out in the NE for a while (winters were so cold), I landed in D.C. to work in the collection of the US National Herbarium of the Smithsonian Institution. This journey led me to work in a living botanical collection (finally among the living) working with the Friends of the US National Arboretum and overseeing volunteers. We have now arrived at present day- it’s been a great adventure so far and I am really looking forward to this one!     

CT: What are you looking forward to doing at Casey Trees as our new Director?
MP: As you see from above, I love to learn and teach! So I am thrilled to join the team in continuing to craft our outreach so that others can do the same. I am really looking forward to working in the community, promote the mission, share knowledge, and of course- plant some trees!

CT: What drew you to Casey Trees?
When I moved to DC in the winter of 2012/2013, I quickly discovered Casey Trees because I was searching for something about “trees in D.C.” Honestly, I was surprised to find an organization with such an amazing mission! So I’ve been following along and always working on being a better urban citizen. Having an opportunity to work with an organization driven by an impactful mission is thrilling. Plus, have you seen the swag?! 

CT: How did you get interested in the urban forestry and/or environmental nonprofit field?
MP: I’ve always been a proponent of getting people excited about their surroundings. Now that I’ve lived in urban and rural places, it’s become a passion of mine to share my experiences in nature with others so they can find value/appreciation in their own way. From a street tree to a forest, you can find a little nature nook in both.

CT: What is your favorite weekend D.C. spot?
MP: For me, biking along one of the many paths here, and ending up at food, music, or beer (D.C. has excellent choices of all three).  

CT: And finally (because, duh) – do you have a favorite tree?
MP: Oh this is so hard! I have so many “tree moments” and seasonal loves- conifers in winter, redbuds in spring, crape myrtles in summer, and maples changing color in the fall.  BUT the native tuliptree stands out (Liriodendron tulipifera – who doesn’t like to say this name).  The tall, sturdy structure of this tree has always been a favorite of mine, plus the flowers and leaves are lovely.  

Brittany Tovar (right) is our new HR Manager. Already a graduate of Casey Trees classes, she’ll work with our Admin team to make sure the Casey Trees team runs smooth and steady.

Brittany posing with General Sherman, a giant sequoia tree located in the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park, that is by volume, the largest known living single-stem tree on Earth.

Casey Trees (CT): Welcome to Casey Trees! Tell us, who is Britney?
Brittany Tovar (BT): I grew up in and attended college in Michigan then moved to Oklahoma for two years post-college with Teach for America. I moved to D.C. around 5 years ago and began working in HR at NPR. I love visiting national parks (especially when it comes with a National Park Passport stamp) to hike and backpack and have started getting into sewing some of my own lightweight gear.

CT: What drew you to Casey Trees?
BT: I took a couple of classes with Casey Trees and fell in love with the mission and the energy of the staff and volunteers I met there. I knew I wanted to be a part of it. 

CT: What are you looking forward to doing at Casey Trees as our new Admin team member?
BT: I am really excited to work on some big projects to increase efficiencies for the organization and support all of our staff.

CT: How did you get interested in the environmental nonprofit field?
BT: I’ve always loved being outside and getting to know the natural and cultural history of where I live. I found one of the best ways to combine those interests is with local environmental work. 

CT: You can only take one album to listen to on a desert island. What do you bring?
BT: This is so tough. Spotify has ruined me. I never listen to a full album anymore. (Editor’s Note: perhaps you can join Brittany in enjoying our Tree-mendous Tunes Spotify playlist)

CT: And finally (because, duh) – do you have a favorite tree?
BT: Growing up my grandparents had a crabapple tree in their yard that made a perfect climbing gym for all of the neighborhood kids. It’s always brought back memories of long summer days and has been a favorite ever since.

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