2017 Alabama Water Watch Awards
Several individuals and groups were recognized during the AWW 25th Anniversary Celebration.
Recipient: Mark Butler
The “Monitor of the Year” award for the monitor who has submitted the most data records in the past year is called the Mullen Award because Mike and Alice Mullen consistently submit far more records than any other monitor. Mike submitted 365 records in the past year (one for every day of the year!) and Alice submitted 129. They are super-monitors indeed!
Mark Butler submitted a total of 54 chemistry and bacteriological water data records this year. He was certified as an AWW monitor back in 2007, and since that time he has done chemistry and bacteria monitoring on a regular basis. He works with the Blount County Soil and Water Conservation District as the Coordinator of the Dry Creek Watershed Management Project (WMP). Dry Creek is in the Middle Locust Fork watershed of the Black Warrior River Basin in north central Alabama. It was placed on the 303 (d) List or List of Impaired Waters because of water quality issues related to nutrients, ammonia, organic enrichment and pathogens from pasture grazing runoff were noted as the sources of impairment. Thanks to the success of the WMP, Dry Creek was removed from the 303d List for ammonia in 2013. Because of Mark’s efforts, water monitoring has become a big part of this project. Since becoming a monitor, Mark has submitted over 500 water data records!
The following monitors were close behind Mark for numbers of records submitted. Thanks to all of our dedicated volunteers!
- John Gwin- 50
- Homer Singleton – 47
- Renee Frachioni – 44
- Jeff and Linde Lynn – 41
Top 5 Groups of the Year:
The following groups submitted the most data records for the past year:
- Coastal Plains Stream Watch – 381
Mike and Alice Mullen are the core monitors for CPS with a few others who join from time to time. The amount of testing they do is incredible and invaluable to their region.
- RSVP Marshall County – 314
RSVP Marshall County holds the record for submitting the most all-time records for a group with a total of 10,217!
- Dog River Clearwater Revival – 221
Dog River Clearwater Revival should receive the “Revival Award” this year. In 2016 they submitted about 50 records. Thanks to leadership of Mimi Fearn and support of local organizations such as Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, they increased that number by more than 400% in 2017.
- Wolf Bay Watershed Watch – 197
- Save Our Saugahatchee – 155
Trainer of the Year
Recipient: Mike Shelton
Mike Shelton conducted seven workshops this year, bringing his overall total of workshops conducted to 102! He first got involved with AWW back in 1998. He is on staff at the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and has been training and supporting citizens since 2001. He is a past member of the AWW Association Board of Directors. Mike is a great source of scientific knowledge when it comes to water quality on the coast and he does a great job of conveying that through his training sessions and many other outreach activities. We appreciate his involvement!
Other Volunteer Trainers who came in a close second were: Jean Ann Moon and Mimi Fearn who both conducted 6 trainings this year.
4-H AWW Group of the Year
Recipients: Limestone County and Marion County
Two groups were awarded the “4-H AWW Group of the Year” for their achievements in the past year.
4-H Regional Extension Agents and local teachers who attended the 2016 Exploring Our Living Streams Workshops began both of these outstanding groups.
1. Limestone County 4-H AWW includes students from Ardmore High School as well as Clements High School. 4-H Agent, Chloe Wilson and Ardmore High School Teacher, Starr de Graffenried used the EOLS curriculum to expose the students to aquatic science and water monitoring in the classroom. Interested students had the opportunity to join the Nature Club that would include water monitoring with 4-H AWW as one of its major activities. In January, Mona and Sergio traveled to Ardmore to assist with the official water chemistry certification class. The group found an abandoned AWW site (Piney Creek) on their school campus and have begun regular monitoring! Later in the semester the group took a field trip to Caney Creek Falls and other spots in the Bankhead National Forest where they put their Stream Biomonitoring skills to practice. Read more about that Field Trip.
Starr and Chloe have big plans for this group’s future and we couldn’t be more excited!
2. Marion County 4-H AWW is made up of students who are part of the Environmental Club at Hamilton High School, which is led by teacher, Kacy Cobb. 4-H Agent, Rebecca Danley worked closely with Kacy to support the formation and training of this group. Rebecca and Kacy worked with the students in-school and in the field to get them comfortable with monitoring techniques. In February, Mona and Sergio travelled to Hamilton to assist with the water chemistry certification. The students did a fabulous job with the techniques and have also adopted an abandoned AWW site on Williams Creek. They have also conducted Stream Biomonitoring and have even begun to learn how to use the AWW Water Data Tools to analyze data. Two additional Marion County teachers have been trained in recent months, so Kacy and Rebecca will have additional support in the coming school year.
We are so proud of these young monitors and their leaders!
AWW Staff presented three special awards to recognize long-time contributions to AWW and environmental stewardship in general.
Biodiversity Guardian Award
Recipient: Marty Schulman
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 for his service as an Alabama Water Watch monitor on behalf of US Fish and Wildlife Service at three of the five known habitats that exist worldwide, where the endangered watercress darter exists.
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. As a devoted member of the Watercress Darter Monitoring Program, he has contributed over 500 records from 11 sites to the AWW database. He received the coveted Mullen Award for the second consecutive year in 2016 for submitting the most data records during those years!
In Marty’s words: “Besides us humans, there’s a broad spectrum of aquatic and terrestrial life that share our clean water needs; so there’s a common requirement for clean water that doesn’t put human interests above the other critters that we live with.”
Marty was also instrumental in the effort to bring the Endangered Species Mural Project to Birmingham, the result of which is a breathtaking mural that brings awareness for the need to protect this beautiful creature – the watercress darter.
AWW was honored to award Marty Schulman with the newest AWW award, the Biodiversity Guardian Award, which will be known as the Schulman Biodiversity Guardian Award.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Recipient: Mike and Alice Mullen
Mike and Alice Mullen have been involved with AWW since its inception in the early 90s. They have given of their time, talent and treasure for the stewardship of the waters of the Choctawhatchee and Pea rivers in Alabama’s Coastal Plain for the past two and a half decades.
Mike was certified as an AWW water monitor in early 1993, and Alice was certified in 1997. They have contributed a whopping 6,004 records from 118 sites to the AWW database!
Mike was then certified as an AWW trainer in 1997. He has been the trainer for 106 workshops, and certified 601 volunteer monitors in the process!
In 2011, ADEM upgraded all of the East Fork of the Choctawhatchee River, most of the West Fork of the Choctawhatchee River, and all but a 3 mile stretch of the Choctawhatchee River to Swimming and Other Whole Body Water-Contact Sports. The upgrade in classification tightened water quality standards for these river sections relative to E. coli bacteria contamination, and greatly increased protections to both the river and people recreating there.
The Alabama Rivers Alliance awarded their coveted River Hero award to Mike in 2012, for his countless stewardship efforts as the Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper, his extensive AWW monitoring and training efforts, and for being a founding member of the AWW Association.
According to Dr. Deutsch: “There are many who are considered science “geeks” who love data collection and analysis, others have the “fire in the belly” for clean water and go at it with devotion and energy, some are dedicated to educating children, and others are in the trenches fighting for good water policy. Mike Mullen is one of the rare individuals who encompasses all of those….he is a true River Hero.”
Mike brought a highly successful AWW data-to-action outlet, the Waterkeeper Swim Guide, to the attention of AWW back in 2012. As a result of Mike’s enthusiasm and guidance, AWW became a Swim Guide Affiliate, integrated the Swim Guide into our AWW bacteriological workshops, and encourage bacteriological monitors to upload their data into the Swim Guide to benefit all who enjoy our state’s beautiful waters!
Then, from 2013 to 2015, Mike and Alice made extremely generous donations totaling $15,000 into the Mullen Fund, to the AWWA for the support and betterment of AWW monitoring throughout the state! Mike and Alice, you are a stellar example of true watershed stewards – we are honored to award you with the AWW Lifetime Achievement Award.
Recipient: Bill Deutsch
Dr. Bill Deutsch came to Auburn University in 1988 to pursue a Ph.D. in Aquatic Ecology. During that journey he decided that he wanted to use his career to connect people to their watersheds. Shortly afterwards, he was approached by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and Auburn University with the opportunity to help lead establishment of a volunteer water quality monitoring program in Alabama. The challenge of this task was immense and few thought that it would be a successful endeavor. However, Bill saw a need for a program that could not only educate people about water pollution and the threats posed to our resources, but also empower citizens to actively protect and restore their watersheds. He was able to envision the kind of program that would work for Alabamians and their environment, and he had the dedication, creativity, and passion needed to stay the course and make things happen.
There are many individuals, groups, and agencies who have contributed to the long-term success of AWW, but without Bill the program would not be what it is today. Citizen science programs, such as AWW, are becoming more important with current cuts to environmental protection budgets and threats of reduced regulation. We owe a great deal to Bill for his dedication to AWW and his vision that citizens can be empowered to improve their quality of life when they are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to monitor and care for their watersheds. His vision has benefited not only Alabamians, but people around the entire world.