We miss you, LaVerne!

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I first met LaVerne at an annual meeting of the Smith Lake water watchers several years ago. He immediately struck me as a straightforward gentleman who was concerned about preserving and protecting the environment and was committed to doing something about it. He introduced himself and then asked me ‘can we get AWW to come up to Winston County and conduct some of your water testing classes for us?” I replied that we would be thrilled to train folks in Winston County in water quality monitoring since we had no volunteer water monitors there. And thus it began. Continue reading

Who’s watching our water?

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One of the most common misconceptions that we, the AWW staff, frequently encounter in our travels throughout the state is “the state is looking after my creek/river/lake/bay/bayou, right?” Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, the answer is “sort of”. With more than 77,000 miles of streams/rivers and over half a million acres of pond/lakes/reservoirs in the state, even a well-funded state agency would be hard-pressed to monitor Alabama’s waters, let alone a state agency that’s been cut to the bone, as the Alabama Department of Environmental Management has been.

Enter Alabama Water Watch. As the AWW monitors, trainers and friends from eight of the state’s ten major basins learned at AWW’s Annual Gathering on Saturday, June 13th, the collective efforts of hundreds of citizen volunteer monitors are taking up the slack.

23 years of volunteer citizen involvement in AWW: 1992-2015

23 years of volunteer citizen involvement in AWW: 1992-2015

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Who speaks for the streams?

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LoraxGood question, Mr. Lorax! A group of fourteen enthusiastic citizen volunteers joined AWW staffers, Sergio Ruiz –Córdova and Mona Dominguez, to participate in an Exploring Our Living Steams workshop for an answer. The two-day workshop was conducted at New Site, AL, organized and sponsored by Sabrina Wood, Alabama Clean Water Partnership Facilitator for the Tallapoosa Basin. Folks came from Alexander City, Jackson’s Gap, Dadeville, Eclectic, Wedowee, Montgomery, Rockford, Auburn and Daviston to learn about Alabama’s streams. Continue reading

MeOWW (Meet Our Water Watchers) – Francine Hutchinson, AWW trainer extraordinaire!

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Francine Hutchinson is a retired, Nationally Board Certified Biology Teacher.  She has taught at various schools in the Cleburne County, Jacksonville City, and Oxford City School Systems, and also as an Adjunct Instructor at Jacksonville State University and Gadsden State Community College.  She received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Jacksonville State University.    A long-time environmental educator, she has taught classes for JSU Field Schools since its inception in 1991.  She currently works part-time as Assistant Curator of the Jacksonville State University Herbarium.  She has worked as a volunteer environmental activist for many years as a Trainer for Alabama Water Watch.

Francine training a group of energetic young adults at an AWW Water Chemistry Workshop at JSU

Francine training a group of energetic young adults at an AWW Water Chemistry Workshop at Jacksonville State University

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For the love of the darter

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We hope that you enjoy the following article that one of our faithful AWW water monitors sent to us last week. Marty Schulman, water monitor extraordinaire, has been employing his monitoring talents in the protection of one of the most endangered fish species in Alabama, and for that matter, in the United States! Marty was the recipient of the coveted 2015 Alabama Rivers Alliance James Lowery Service Award (an expansion of the ARA Volunteer of the Year Award) for his service as an Alabama Water Watch monitor on behalf of US Fish and Wildlife Service at three of the five known habitats of the endangered watercress darter that exist worldwide.

The beloved watercress darter is indigenous to Alabama, and is now limited to a few springs and spring runs (four natural areas, and one where the darter was introduced) in the Birmingham area. Though small in size (measuring to about 2.5 inches in maximum length), this darter rivals tropical reef fish in beauty and coloration (see picture below).

male watercress darter fish

Male watercress darter trying to impress his girlfriend. Credit: USFWS (source: http://www.fws.gov/southeast/news/2010/r10-045.html)

After being trained and certified as an AWW monitor, Marty has been faithfully monitoring water quality at darter habitats in the Birmingham area since 2008. He and fellow members of the Watercress Darter Monitoring Program water monitoring group, have conducted 255 water sampling events and submitted their data to AWW’s online database. Some of the data records from Roebuck Springs, one of the remaining habitats of the watercress darter, are shown below. Continue reading