Our Volunteers Matter

Volunteer Profiles


Emily Tekelenburg

Volunteering Since: 2019

As a high school junior in 2019, Emily Tekelenburg began volunteering for WPC’s land stewardship department. “The projects allow me to spend quality time with my family,” she says. She has also shadowed WPC staff at Lake Pleasant Conservation Area as part of her Career Exploration Senior Project and learned about land acquisition, transforming unused land into green spaces and impact assessments.

What are your volunteer activities at WPC?

I primarily work with land stewardship developing trails, removing debris from natural areas and maintaining native ecosystems with invasive species extraction. A common work day involves what I call “intense gardening” where we use loppers to remove trail obstructions or invasives, and pull weeds from the intended trail.

How did you become involved with WPC?

My first experience was establishing a community garden and rainwater collector to prevent sewer flooding in Oakland. The following year, I participated in the land stewardship volunteer event at Toms Run Nature Reserve. After meeting diverse individuals and sharing stories of outdoor adventures, I knew I had found an organization where I could form lasting relationships and contribute to nature.

What has surprised you most about working with WPC?

There is such a community that one immediately feels welcomed. As I look back on the past year of college-related anxieties and my busy swim schedule, I recognize my membership in WPC as essential to my character and an opportunity to enjoy the simple things in life.

What do you do when you’re not volunteering?

I am fully committed to my swim team and quality time spent with my family. Hiking, bike touring, whitewater boating and especially skiing bring me joy. Outdoor activities have also led me to pursue photographing the beauty of the natural world. When I am unable to get outside, I enjoy reading literary classics.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I have been incredibly fortunate to have parents interested in enjoying outdoor places and the preservation of natural spaces. At a very early age, I began my collection of National Park Junior Ranger badges at Glacier National Park. I have completed more than 50 Junior Ranger programs. My favorite has been Olympic National Park.

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy considers applicants and volunteers without regard to race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, sexual preference, disability, marital status or veteran status.