Sydney Smith officially began her role as AWW Volunteer Monitor Coordinator in July 2017. Her primary role is to provide support to our volunteer monitors and trainers. She accomplishes this by conducting and coordinating training workshops, processing water data, setting up new sampling sites, developing training materials, and maintaining regular communication with our volunteers. Sydney has been a wonderful addition to the AWW Program Staff as she is hard working, intelligent, and creative. On top of that she has a great attitude about her work with AWW and is lots of fun!
We realize many of you have already communicated with Sydney, but we wanted to give her an official welcome and tell you a little more about her with a little Q & A.
What made you want to work with AWW?
My involvement with AWW started back in high school when my dad took me sampling on Moore’s Mill Creek in Auburn. I was fascinated by the world of water and I new I wanted to be involved in it some way. I got certified as a volunteer monitor with AWW in 2014 and I was hooked!
Growing up, my parents encouraged me to try to find a career that involves something I love and am passionate about. They told me to find a job that challenges me to constantly learn and grow, and where I can be in community with diverse groups of people. I’m fortunate enough to have found that opportunity in Water Watch!
What past work and school experience helped you prepare for your position here?
I earned my Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science from Auburn University’s College of Agriculture, where the course of study included classes in Ecology, Aquatic Microbiology, Water Science, GIS, Environmental Geology, Environmental Education, and Environmental Law. These classes have provided me with a solid knowledge base that I am excited to get to continuously build upon at AWW.
Funchess Hall on AU’s campus was my home sweet home for three years when I was a student worker with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program with Dr. Eve Brantley and Alex James. Extension provided opportunities to work in the field (really I got paid to play outside :)), plant stream side vegetation, sample, and organize stream clean-ups, among many other things. The watershed projects we worked on introduced me to various stakeholder groups across the state, along with engineers, landscape architects, biologists and homeowners from Alabama communities.
What has been the most challenging part of the job so far?
Going from full time student to full time employee has been quite the transition and has definitely been a challenge for me. It’s tough being a newbie, but I am so lucky to be able to work alongside folks who have been part of this amazing program for years, some even since its beginning. I have been involved with AWW for three short years, so I know I have much to learn from the program staff, volunteers, trainers, and partners. They have so much wisdom to share!
What have you liked best?
Just know that I’m not being paid to say this…but the staff are seriously amazing and the most hardworking, passionate people I have ever met. It is incredible to have the opportunity to work in an environment with like-minded individuals who are all working together towards a common goal.
I love the character Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler) from the NBC show Parks and Recreation. On the final episode of the series, Leslie addresses a group of graduating students and quotes Theodore Roosevelt, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard and work worth doing,” she says, “and I would add, that what makes work worth doing, is getting to do it with people that you love,” and she directs the students, “go find your team.” At Water Watch, I have found work worth doing and I have found my team.
What’s your favorite aquatic critter?
For macroinvertebrates, my favorite critters are definitely leeches! They are so cute and squishy! But I LOVE turtles. Every kind of turtle. I love learning about them and finding them in ponds and streams around Auburn. Luckily for me, Alabama is home to many native freshwater turtles!