Recap: 2019 AWW Annual Meeting

Thanks to everyone who was able to gather for the 2019 AWW Annual Meeting at Blakeley State Park in Spanish Fort, AL! As always, it was a great opportunity to fellowship and hear about all of the great work AWW Volunteers are doing throughout the state.

Here are a few highlights from activities that took place on June 21 and 22 as part of the event.

A group of AWW Friends toured the Mobile Delta on Friday, June 21. on Historic Blakeley State Park’s Delta Explorer Cruise. The guided cruise explored the area’s natural habitat and historic Civil War sites.

On Saturday, the AWW Annual Meeting was held in the Wehle Center at Blakeley State Park. For many, it was the first time to visit the park and it was a great opportunity to explore a new location. There is so much history to learn from and natural beauty to experience at the park. Add it to your list of places to visit in south Alabama.

The day began with a few updates from the AWW Program regarding activities and accomplishments from the previous year. Many are available here in our 2018 AWW Annual Report.

Ben Raines provided a very interesting Keynote Presentation title “Learning to Love Ourselves” which focused on the amazing biodiversity and beauty found in our state and how Alabamians need to recognize the importance of caring for it.  Ben Raines is an environmental journalist and filmmaker. Raines has won more than two dozen awards for his coverage of environmental issues and natural wonders in Alabama and on the Gulf Coast, and coauthored several peer-reviewed papers published in scientific journals.

He wrote and directed The Underwater Forest, an award-winning film about the exploration of a 70,000-year-old cypress forest found off the Alabama coast. Raines also wrote and produced the documentary America’s Amazon, which has aired on PBS stations around the country and been distributed to public schools across Alabama. His underwater film work has appeared in documentaries on the Discovery Channel and National Geographic TV. Most recently, Raines discovered a shipwreck believed to be the Clotilda, the last American slave ship. An expedition funded by National Geographic is investigating his latest find. Raines co-authored the book Heart of a Patriot with U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, which chronicled Cleland’s journey from triple amputee to the Senate. Raines is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a degree in filmmaking, and is a U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captain, giving tours of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and Alabama’s barrier islands. He lives with his wife and son in Fairhope, Ala.

After a delightful lunch catered from the Stagecoach Café out of Stockton, AL, several of our Volunteer Monitors made presentations including Jason Kudulis and Dr. Mimi Fearn. Jason, a native of Mobile, holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of South Alabama and a Masters of Science from the University of Alabama. First exposed to A WW in 2004, he has been a regular monitor and water chemistry trainer since 2016. Currently, Jason serves as the Restoration Program Manager for the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program.

Jason Kudulis speaks about his work with Mobile Bay NEP.

Mimi Fearn grew up boating on the rivers and bays of south Alabama during the 1950s. She completed her B.S. at the University of South Alabama as a non-traditional student in 1987. In 1995, she finished her Ph.D. in physical geography at LSU and started teaching at the University of South Alabama.

Mimi Fearn talks about her work with the Dog River Clearwater Revival

Mimi served as president of Dog River Clearwater Revival (DRCR) for 6 years, and she became involved with Alabama Water Watch during that time. She retired as chair of the Department of Earth Sciences in 2015. Mimi stays busy as a volunteer with the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program and as the water monitoring coordinator for DRCR. She enjoys bicycling, kayaking, taking her dogs to the beach, and working in her new yard on Halls Mill Creek.

Both Mimi and Jason are active monitors and trainers with AWW. They also represent the excellent partnership between MBNEP and Coastal Watershed Groups including DRCR that has emphasized the growth of volunteer monitoring in the Coastal Region of AL over the last few years.  Their presentation highlighted why MBNEP has worked to develop partnerships with DRCR and other groups, and how the partnerships are benefiting water quality. Mimi, who has played a major role in the revitalization of monitoring for the DRCR, offered tried and true practical advice to other groups that are trying to begin or renew volunteer water quality monitoring efforts.

Dr. Joseph Scanlan was our second Volunteer Presenter. Joseph Scanlan is a retired ophthalmologist who has worked with AWW for many years because of his concern for the degradation of our waters and environment. His interest has increased since the discovery of the decline of the Speckled Studfish and other fish in Alabama.

Dr. Scanlan discusses his work with the Killifish

Dr. Scanlan is a fish hobbyist whose major interest is the reproduction and rearing of Killifish. He is a member of the American Killifish Association and the North American Native Fish Association. He opposes the unnecessary use of chemicals and believes we all need to compost our organic wastes. He is also an organic gardener.

Thank you again to all of our wonderful volunteer speakers and sharing your work and dedication with us!