On the most perfect spring day, I had the pleasure of leaving my computer screen behind to go into the field and conduct a recertification session for one of our volunteers, Renee Frachioni. We made the short drive over to Town Creek, which is one of the four sites where she does her monthly water chemistry monitoring in the Auburn area. Renee is a very methodical and careful monitor, so my job recertifying was quite easy. It gave me the chance to soak in some of the warm sunshine, to listen to the bubbling creek, and I even spotted a tiger swallowtail butterfly flutter by.
After we finished up, we sat down on a bench near the trail to her site and I took the opportunity to ask her a few “MeOWW Worthy Questions.” We are lucky in the AWW Office to be able to see Renee (and her husband Mark who usually goes with her to test on a monthly basis) when she comes to borrow a testing kit. Take a minute and get to know her!
Where do you call home?
Home is Troy, a small town in upstate New York. My husband, Mark, and I ended up down here in Alabama to retire. Mark went to Auburn University, and we lived here for a bit when he was in school and really liked it. Decided it was a good place to retire.
What water activity do you enjoy most?
I love rowing, which I did in college. I have a little shell, but haven’t gotten it out on the water in a while and am long over due! But really, anything on the water is nice and relaxing. I like fishing, kayaking, canoeing…
What got you interested in AWW?
When I was in New York I taught Earth Science and Environmental science at the high school level, and conducted water monitoring with my students. We also participated in “Trout in the Classroom,” where we raised trout and then released them to our nearby stream, the Wynants Kill, which we then monitored to make sure the trout would survive. I really enjoyed it and it was neat to see the students realize what was around them and how they could take care of it. They were able to see that “little actions could lead to its (the creek’s) demise or its health.” When I came down to Alabama I was looking for a way to be involved in that sort of monitoring and I found AWW. I’ve been monitoring for (I don’t even know how long) maybe 5 years.
What are the biggest challenges/issues in your watershed?
Auburn has a lot of development going on, and to me, the biggest thing is stormwater runoff from the work sites. Some places do a fabulous job of putting up silt fences and keeping particles out of the water. Other places aren’t doing much of anything. As monitors, we can see where that is occurring and let the appropriate people know.
Do you have some watershed stewardship “lessons learned” that you could pass on to others?
Keep an eye on what is around you because, believe it or not, you can make a difference. When I was water monitoring with my students, every year we participated in an event called Clean Water Congress where local schools in the Hudson River Watershed would present their findings. One high school thought that some of their biological and chemical water data looked funny. They reported it to the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation and it was discovered that there was a business whose septic system wasn’t working correctly. Another time, a different school found another situation where a septic tank was leaching into the stream. They were able to recognize it and fix the problem. These were excellent experiences for the students.
If you were going to give someone your one-minute why get involved, what would it be?
Everyday is a beautiful day on the water! It’s so relaxing.
It’s true – we discount the importance of just getting out on our streams and enjoying the outdoors. So many people are disconnected from nature and it’s sad. It’s right in your back yard, check it out!