It can be often difficult to imagine that the buildings that line our city streets were once trees. The concrete jungle is one of the most invasive environments on our planet and the effects on those who live there can be damaging. People who reside in these highly urbanized areas without trees and green spaces face worse air quality, higher average temperatures, increased levels of mold and more. At the heart of Sophie Revis’ work as an urban conservationist is restoration and connection. Her work centers around restoring natural elements to these urban communities to make them more resistant to the effects of climate change and connecting the residents back to the outdoors. Sophie put a pause on her schedule to discuss with us her beginnings, barriers and hopes for the future.
Meet Sophie Revis (she/her)
Great Parks: How and why did you get into the world of conservation?
Sophie Revis: I spent quite a bit of time as a child and teenager going to parks. In particular, with my father. He would encourage us to look under rocks and climb trees, which is how I really got started. I didn’t realize it was a field that I could actually work in until I joined Americorps National Civilian Community Corps. During this time, I was able to do quite a bit of conservation work, which really led me to my passion for working outdoors in a way that helps people. It was the first time that I saw how the labor that I put into the natural environment could help both the ecosystems and the communities living near them.
GP: Did you have someone who was a specific inspiration?
SR: My father provided the framework and foundation for my passion. Then it grew with other sources throughout the years. So, I would have to say there is no one person. I have been inspired by a lot of people.
GP: Did you experience any barriers in this field? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?
SR: Honestly, when pursuing a career of environmental and conservation work one needs to spend lots of time volunteering in order to get a job. While I was in school, I had to work full time. This made finding time to volunteer and get a foot in the door difficult. I overcame this by a stroke of luck while in class one day. My current supervisor came in to speak about his organization. The focus on environmental justice, which at the time was not really focused on by other environmental organizations, struck deeply with me.
GP: What value do you believe parks and other public green spaces have in conservation efforts?
SR: I think that parks and other public green spaces may be one the most important pieces of conservation in the city. Not only because they have the area, resources and know-how to conserve, but also because they can educate visitors on what they can do to conserve their own environment. They can show people what a healthy environment looks like.
GP: What would you recommend to someone who wants to get involved in the world of conservation?
SR: I would suggest that they start volunteering. Locally, I believe Green Umbrella is a good organization to get involved with. They are the center for all the environmental/sustainability work in the city. This means they are aware of all of the volunteer programs, opportunities and the work that local organizations are doing. Maybe volunteering isn’t everyone’s forte. If they have it, they can look to see how they could turn their own property into a conservation oasis.
Sophie is constantly working to return the highly urbanized areas around us into conservation oases. Her hope is that she can bring climate resilience to the vulnerable communities in the Cincinnati area.
“I want to create a narrative by pairing the stories of what it is like to live in neighborhoods which are hotter, have more air pollution, etc. with scientific data in order to encourage people to help share resources with those affected communities,” Sophie said. “My biggest goal is to make sure Cincinnati is climate resilient.”
If you would like to learn more about the work that Sophie is doing, you can check out Groundwork Ohio River Valley and Groundwork USA – Climate Safe Neighborhoods. Additionally, check out this recently published article by the World Wildlife Fund on how Cincinnati is looking to tackle climate issues, which includes how Sophie’s organization is contributing.
Nature Interpreter, Miami Whitewater Forest