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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Shenandoah National Park, Warrenton, Virginia, USA

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Shenandoah National Park, Warrenton, Virginia, USA
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Registered: November 2019
City/Town/Province: Warrenton
Posts: 1
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Nature and the mountains have served as a constant in my life. From the moment I was born, I was encouraged to immerse myself outdoors, resulting in every playdate involving a full day of exploring the forest on our farm. As I grew older, so grew my love for nature. I started hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing as much as I could, and soon, I felt the need to give back to the place that had gifted me so much. When I learned about the Nicodemus Wilderness Project, I was instantly inspired to take action. The project ideas that the Project had listed appeared to lead to endless opportunities for improving the environment, and I had to slow myself down before I overwhelmed myself with options.
As I started the beginning phase of my project, I realized that I would need assistance. After voicing an interest in water quality, I was introduced to an internship during the spring under Claire at the Piedmont Environmental Council. As she introduced me to the importance of clean water in our rural community, I became ravenous to explore and assist further. Although Claire was a land conservationist, she wanted to begin a water quality program that would incorporate citizen science and quickly placed me as lead of the charge. We first drafted a plan for the year. Within were plans to build a Quality Assurance Project Plan, become certified in chemical and biological monitoring, create outreach programs, and work with local governments to host events for environmental education. As we wrote the plans, I became increasingly excited about the possibilities the agenda could hold.
As the year continued, these ideas became reality and fueled my enthusiasm. Claire allowed me the independence to drive my own projects, simultaneously assisting me with the process. We planned conferences with environmental groups whom we collaborated with and would utilize this information to build our own programs. The Friends of the Rappahannock were contacted to certify ourselves in chemical quality monitoring which includes water clarity using a turbidity tube, water and air temperature using a thermometer, pH using a probe, and dissolved oxygen using titration. After learning chemical monitoring, I contacted the Izaak Walton League to become certified in monitoring biological parameters by observing macroinvertebrate abundance and diversity in a stream. During this process, I spent time in and out of the office researching other citizen water quality science projects to build the best possible program for Warrenton, Virginia. Thankfully, the town of Warrenton was fully on board with the project, encouraging us to include local schools in field experiences.
As the school year began, we created the goal of leading two field trips and four monitoring trips before the end of the year. With help from other environmental groups, this goal has been reached. Three water quality monitoring field trips, five monitoring trips, one tree planting, and one electro shocking have all been planned and completed. Through a collaboration with Fauquier High School and Highland School, students have been able to go into the field and work as citizen scientists, participating in both hands-on learning and volunteering. The students are first taught about the importance of water quality in our community, then learn how to conduct chemical and biological samples, which is later sent into a database that the Department of Environmental Quality tracks. It's inspiring to watch as teenagers and children come to life as they incorporate teamwork to improve the environment in their home. The project has received enthusiastic responses from all ages, encouraging Claire and myself to grow the project in the upcoming year to reach more schools and non-profit groups, such as the Boy Scouts.
The effects of the Piedmont Environmental Council's trout projects have also been studied through this program The sites above and below newly built bridges have been studied. The results have been promising, indicating a steady movement towards connecting brook trout habitats across the Rappahannock tributaries. The positive data has pushed the project to continue working towards collaboration with environmental engineers and volunteer groups to improve the streams even further, as well as to identify future sites.
As a whole, this water quality project is an important factor in benefiting the Chesapeake Bay and Fauquier county's community. By working through multiple outlets of outreach, we have been able to educate and inspire students around the county to take responsibility for their hand in the environment. While these students learn, the Rappahannock River is studied and bettered. The citizen data is sent directly to the government, and any work done on the tributaries, such as riparian buffer planting or bridge restoration, leads to a healthier Chesapeake Bay Watershed in the future. Because of bioaccumulation and pollution buildup that can occur in headwaters like the Rappahannock, this research and work is crucial to protecting the Bay and improving its waters for future generations to enjoy.
Through my Apprentice Ecologist Project, my eyes have been opened to the opportunities that lie ahead. By conducting field research and meeting with environmental professionals, I see a clear vision of where my future is taking me. This path involves constantly striving to improve the environment, might that be through engineering or field research. My love for conservation and science has only grown since establishing the project, and I plan on pushing even further with what we have established. I anticipate a bright, innovative future as I move into the environmental field.
Date: November 24, 2019 Views: 1735 File size: 38.4kb, 1063.8kb : 1440 x 1440
Hours Volunteered: 250
Volunteers: 35
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 18 & 14 to 30
Native Trees Planted: 15
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