USFS Phase II Kick-off

USFS CitSci Fund Phase II Talladega Field Day Participants at the Cheaha State Park Interpretive Center. Photo Credit: Mona Dominguez

In 2021, AWW’s partnership with the USDA Forest Service (USFS) CitSci Fund expanded to the Talladega National Forest! The partnership began in 2019 and, in early 2020, AWW and USFS co-hosted water quality monitoring workshops in the Bankhead, Conecuh, and Tuskegee National Forests. These three workshops resulted in 77 volunteers trained as citizen scientists, 15 active volunteer monitors, and 19 sites sampled on 10 different waterbodies. Nearly 18 months later, 250+ data records have been received. More detail about sites and workshops is published on the Project’s StoryMap.

October is a beautiful sight at the Talladega National Forest. Photo Credit: Mona Dominguez

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, adaptations were necessary as we implemented Phase II of the project in the Talladega National Forest. Some of these adaptations included the piloting of the Alabama Water Watch Water Chemistry Monitoring Canvas Course to accompany the previously-developed Intro to AWW and Bacteriological Monitoring Canvas Courses, hosting a kickoff Zoom event for prospective volunteer monitors, and minimizing indoor classroom time for the on-site Field Day.

Phase II also expanded our CitSci Fund project partners to Cheaha State Park and Wild Alabama!


AWW staff encountered a three-lined salamander (Eurycea guttolineata) during Talladega site visits | Photo Credit: Rachel McGuire

The day before the Field Day at Cheaha State Park, AWW Staff Mona Dominguez, Sydney Smith, and Rachel McGuire visited the pre-selected monitoring sites on the Shoal Creek and Talladega Districts of the Talladega National Forest. During their site visits, they also collected bacteriological water samples.

Monitoring sites in the Shoal Creek District (North) and Talladega District (South) of the Talladega National Forest. Map Credit: Estella Smith, USDA Forest Service
Mona Dominguez collecting a bacteriological sample at Site TD8 in the Talladega District. Photo Credit: Rachel McGuire

In order to hit sites in both Districts, AWW had to get a little creative with sample plating and incubation (see below). Luckily, hova-bators can incubate in a vehicle!

Plating bacteriological samples while on the road. Photo Credit: Sydney Smith

The Field Day at the Cheaha State Park Interpretive Center was the first external group Cheaha had hosted at the venue! It was a packed house in the classroom with 13 USFS volunteer monitors-in training, 2 USFS staff, and 6 volunteer monitors from Lake Wedowee Property Owners Association along with new AWW Trainer, Frank Varisco. Frank led water chemistry practices to finish his AWW Trainer internship and we are happy to have him fully-onboarded!

The group spent the majority of the Field Day outdoors on the banks of Lake Cheaha where everyone conducted bacteriological sampling and water chemistry practices.

Two USFS workshop participants practice the final step of the AWW Dissolved Oxygen test. Photo Credit: Mona Dominguez

The Field Day wrapped up back in the classroom, where the group spent time discussing site selection and matching with monitors. AWW is looking forward to working with our new cohort of Talladega National Forest monitors!

If you are interested in monitoring on the Talladega National Forest (or Bankhead, Conecuh, or Tuskegee National Forest), reach out to AWW by calling 334-844-4785 or