Monday, July 11, 2016

My Summer of Science and Oysters


When the children of Dayton tour our River Mobile, the first station they stop at is a large map of the United States to learn how the rivers are connected to one another. They learn that our Great Miami River empties into the Ohio River, which then joins with the Mississippi River, and finally ends its journey as the Mississippi River spills into the Gulf of Mexico. This summer I find myself working in the very same place where the water from the Great Miami River ends its travels: the Gulf of Mexico.
 
 
This summer I have been living on Dauphin Island in southern Alabama, working for the Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s (DISL) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program funded by the National Science Foundation. I have found myself conducting research in aquaculture studies, a field that is rarely thought about in the land-locked Midwest. I have been conducting a research project in collaboration with the Auburn University Shellfish Lab (AUSL) to understand how Eastern Oyster shells recover from the unsightly “blisters” caused by the burrowing worm Polydora webstri, commonly known as a mud worm.
 
 
This research opportunity has given me the very unique experience (for a Midwestern girl like myself) to learn, not only about marine sciences, but also a community that is built around the water. Back in 2005, Hurricane Katrina damaged the areas around Dauphin Island and Mobile, Alabama and the economy has slowly been rebuilding since the natural disaster. The goal of AUSL is to help start oyster farms around the Gulf of Mexico as a new industry to grow the economy in the south. The number of oyster farms has grown from about five farms to thirteen farms today. Research projects like my own and the many graduate students that study through AUSL aim to help the farmers grow oysters more sustainably and efficiently, so that southern oysters can be just as, if not more marketable, on the lucrative half-shell market across the nation.



I have truly enjoyed conducting research in an applied science field that has allowed me to interact with local farmers and turn their, perhaps, “not-so-scientific-questions” into a publishable research project. It has been great to use my community building skills that I learned through River Stewards to work with the oyster farmers through AUSL where they constantly provide instruction, research and outreach in the area of shellfish ecology and production to the citizens of the Mobile Bay region. It amazes me that no matter where I travel to in this country I can still find communities that value their water sources just as much as Dayton. The love for our waterways and its resources can be felt from the Great Miami all the way at the end here in Gulf of Mexico.

-Charlotte Shade, 2017 Cohort

Friday, July 1, 2016

Rec Kids and the Mad River

As the end of June is upon us, the beginning of new adventure and excitement is emerging. The Rivers Institute Summer Team had the wonderful opportunity to host three different organizations on paddling programs. It was a true blessing to be able to build new relationships with children and adults in the Dayton community. It was also a beautiful week to enjoy the outdoors and Dayton’s water resources.
On June 21st, Professor Richard Bendula and his summer geology course joined the Rivers Institute Summer Team on the Mad River to travel down to Riverscape Metro Park. This particular program presented the unique opportunity to communicate with a diverse group of students because all of the students were from Saudi Arabia. We were able to have a great conversation about Dayton’s water resources, as well as the importance of conserving Saudi Arabia’s limited groundwater supply. Even though we were from completely different countries, there was one aspect of our countries that united us allwe all depend on our water resources for prosperity and wellbeing.
The following day, the Summer Team joined the REC Kids camp to paddle in the indoor pool with their campers. This day will stand out as one of the most enjoyable days of the year. The children participating in the camp had a lot of fun energy and excitement. It was an absolute blast to see young children smile and enjoy themselves in the kayaks. The children were having so much fun that some of the campers never wanted to get out of the kayaks. The children were a joy to watch and hopefully are inspired to get back into a kayak in the future. Thank you REC Kids for the smiles and laughs.
On Friday the 24th, we unpacked the Rivers Institute kayaks at Findlay Street where we went over paddling basics and safety tips with the lovely Berry Scholars. After helping everyone into their kayaks, we had an enjoyable and relaxed paddle. A rainfall the day before had the river running a little more swift than earlier in the week. We were given the opportunity to share the knowledge that we have acquired over the past few weeks about the riparian zones and the surrounding areas such as the water treatment plant.
Overall, it was an amazing week for growth, fun, and safety.

River Love

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Reflections on the Little Miami River Paddle




We kicked off our summer team with a trip through our second favorite watershed: the Little Miami Watershed. With all five members of the summer team finally together, we, along with Leslie and Jeff, spent two days paddling down the river learning about the Little Miami River and water ecology while growing as a unit.

On this paddle, we were joined by Aaron Rourke of Rivers Unlimited, and were supported by Mike Schumacher and Bill Schieman of Little Miami Watershed Network. One of the most valuable takeaways of this trip were the discussions we shared about civic engagement and the challenges we may face as leaders in the community.

As members of the Rivers Institute and Fitz Center, civic engagement is at the heart of what we do. We want to develop community around rivers and preserve and value Dayton’s rivers as the asset they are to the Dayton community. But we recognize that it is all too easy to get pulled into the efforts of everyday life—our school work, careers, and personal relationships—and neglect to engage with our broader communities in meaningful ways. Bill Schieman brought up how valuable it is for citizens to commit to lifelong engagement in their communities. By becoming involved in initiatives as simple as cleaning up trash from the river or serving at a local soup kitchen, to larger commitments like serving on a local zoning or school board or working with a conservation agency, we can stay connected to the people and resources in our community. And all the work that people do, large and small, coalesces to create a vibrant community.


A vital part of the summer team’s effectiveness of coordinating programs is our interaction with children. It is a true blessing to be able to interact with children and young adults. Whenever an opportunity arises to work with kids, excitement immediately follows. However, there are certain challenges that present themselves when working with adolescents. Not following directions, making inappropriate remarks and not paying attention all hinder the educational experience. Unfortunately, these are situations naturally present themselves when working with younger audiences.

When discussing with Bill about these difficulties, he voiced his advice to us young educators. Maintaining composure and giving the children your focus and attention shows them that you care and they are valued, and sometimes that attention and love is all that they need. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that, although the children may not show an interest in the discussion or activity at the moment, they do indeed reflect on the experience and remember it. Engaging with children does have an impact, and that is important to remember when it seems like nothing is sinking in.


Both days of the trip, we had some very thought provoking discussions with Aaron, Mike, and Bill on some of the challenges of sustainability and food issues in the world. Our conversations, both days, focused on food and climate change. We discussed the problems with not taking action until we directly feel the effects of unsustainable behavior. We talked about how often this conversation comes up in day to day dialogue but our generation and future generations need to focus on taking action. Sustainability has become more of a of an idealistic aspiration in our society rather than an actionable paradigm. Now is the time to actually act upon this ideal and work towards a more sustainable future. 

On a more lighthearted note, we saw a lot of wildlife that made the trip that much more exciting. We saw 148 turtles and caught three of them. Disclaimer: we let all turtles free. Their names were Graham, Lucas, and Squirt (Gimme some fin. Noggin’. Duuude.) We also saw a bald eagle, a beaver, an otter, and green heron among other animals.

All in all we grew a lot as individuals and are looking forward to an fun and impactful summer!


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

ACA Training

IMG_2285.JPG

To start off the summer, River Stewards, including Sarah Berger, Jason Demeter, Julia Hall, Wallace Huggett, Abbi Kuhn, Jeff Malik, and Meg Maloney, took kayak training from our friends at Five Rivers Metro Parks and obtained our Level 1 Kayak Certification. To put our new skills to the test, we are going to share what we’ve learned with the IDEAS teaching strategy.

Introduction
The summer team is off to an OUTstanding start.

Demonstrate
We spent a day in the classroom learning about safety and teaching strategies and a day on the lake practicing our paddling skills and rescue techniques.

Explain
Now that we are certified kayak instructors, we will be better prepared to make paddles safer and more enjoyable for all participants.

Activity
We worked hard, learned a lot, got dunked in cold water, and got a little (or very) sunburnt.

IMG_2301.PNG


IMG_2302.PNG



Summary: To summarize, we were super cold and tired by the end of it, but we all passed and
   had a blast!

IMG_2770.JPG

Thanks so much to Five Rivers Metro Park and (Captain) Erik Dahlstrom!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Clean Side of Manufacturing

The Clean Side of Manufacturing

 
When I set foot on the ammonia manufacturing plant in Lima, Ohio for a co-op this January, I thought for sure that I had infiltrated enemy lines. There was smoke billowing out of smoke stacks and an orangey-red flame pivoting in the distance—I assumed both were due to under-regulated pollution. I was convinced River Stewards and this plant, which made fertilizer, were opponents in the ongoing argument about what’s best for the environment and its people.
 
 
After weeks of learning about the industry and my role as a water management co-op, I argue that we
are not opponents, but rather coworkers with different strategies to obtain the same goal.
A scientist named Fritz Haber figured out to synthetically make ammonia in 1914. Very soon after its
invention the technology was applied to making fertilizer and was perfect for treating crops like wheat, corn, and rice. World population was already booming, but Haber’s technology made population rates soar. If it hadn’t been for Haber’s invention, millions of people would have died of hunger. Now our world depends on the production of ammonia and without it, millions of people would starve to death.
That really brought home the importance of places like Mission of Mary Farms, who produce an
abundance of healthy food for people in our area. We are blessed to have so much food readily
available even though Dayton is known as a “food desert”. As a river steward, I hope to see that those
who use fertilized farms as their food source switch from that to places like Mission of Mary farms and compost bedding.
The smoke and fire mentioned earlier are heavily regulated to the point where their products are almost completely steam and oxygen. Carbon dioxide is stripped out, cleaned, and sent to a soda
manufacturing company a couple miles down the road. Other byproducts are likewise separated and
sent to places that can turn them into meaningful products. The water that runs the plant is also
conserved. It runs in a continuous loop and is constantly cleaned and cared for as too conserve usage
and save the company money.
My experiences in the manufacturing industry have been enlightening and hopeful. The Lima plant is a nationwide leader in conserving natural resources and redirecting pollution for useful products. I hope I continue to learn as much as I can so I can fulfil my responsibility as a steward for the earth by spreading their sustainable manufacturing mentality.
 
By Tia Ritz, 2018 River Steward Cohort

Friday, April 22, 2016

In Honor of Earth Day ~ our very own River Steward "Giving Tree" Story!


 
 

Our Giving Tree

Almost a year has passed since we said our farewells and congratulations to the 2015 Cohort of River Stewards.  But their River Steward experience and the story of their senior project carries on.  It carries on in the trees that have been planted behind Adventure Central (AC) in the woods of Weselyn Metropark.  It carries on in the seeds which continue to get picked and stored in the refrigerators of AC.  It carries on in the basement under the grow lights, where the seeds slowly become sprouts.  And it carries on in the teens and staff of AC who continue sustain, nurture and steward the project day to day, and season to season.  But, it also carries on in other ways.  In ways each individual River Steward uniquely transfers what they learned into their daily lives and continue to grow, themselves, as stewards of our rivers and communities. 
 
Today I received an email from one of those Stewards, Rachel Bachman, who shared with me how this project has carried on for her and how this week it truly came full circle.  Once I read her email, it brought me back to a very early fall morning in 2014, when I gathered with the senior cohort to talk about the bigger picture of their partnership with Adventure Central and how it was so much more than "just" collecting seeds and working with teens. I shared with them the short video and children's story by Shel Silverstein, "The Giving Tree". I think you will see after you reading Rachel's email why and how it all came together for her this week. Below is Rachel's email for you to enjoy.....
 
"I have a little "story"... I had adopted one of the AC trees before leaving Dayton after graduation. Doug helped me plant a red oak in a huge ranch dressing container Nate gave me. I felt so bad for the little tree because of course I had so much going on (trips before starting my job, starting a job, finding a place to live with Kyle). At the end of the summer the tree was starting to dry out a bit at the ends of the leaves. I transplanted it into a bigger pot and I was having a hard time telling what was happening to it. I couldn't tell if I stunted it or not! Then fall and winter happened and I stuck it in my sunroom for the winter. Once spring came around I keep checking on my tree (well twig at this point) and I was not at all convinced that it was going toake it. I stuck in in my backyard in a pot and then this week I look over at it and IT HAD LEAVES! So I just spent a ton of time telling you I didn't kill my AC tree hahaha. And now I am going to attach a picture. The tree showing life made my entire earth day week (check out the cute little spider on it)!" 
 
excerpt of email from Rachel Bachman
 
 
 
Being Earth Day, I thought it was a perfect moment to re-visit this children's story and honor all those who give back to the earth in whatever way they choose.  I hope you can take a minute to listen to the story in the video linked below.Maybe one day there will be kids swinging on it and families picnicking underneath its shade. I look forward to hearing about how Rachel's tree continues to grow and give life. And, I hope to hear from many more former River Stewards about their "Giving Tree" story and how its grown.. 
 
 HAPPY EARTH DAY and RIVER LOVE TO YOU ALL!   with peace ~ Leslie
 
 

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Steward's Eye-opening Easter

   The last text message I received before I turned off my cell and hoisted my overstuffed pack over my shoulder read, “Jules- You’ll be touching God on Easter morning.” My dad had just sent me this message, as I was about to embark on a four day, three-night adventure in Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois with UD’s Outdoor Adventure Club. Those words reaffirmed my decision to skip out on the typical family Easter to go backpacking. Instead of listening to static while driving to grandma and grandpa’s house, I was listening to the crunch of hiking boots in a silent forest. Instead of hunting for Easter eggs, I was hunting for a glimpse of a flower bud. Instead of talking to my sister about high school, I was talking with horseback riders along the bridal trail. Instead of sitting in a pew, I was sitting awestruck at the striking star infested sky.

   The campfire colored the cave walls and our dirt-streaked cheeks with the warmth and hue of the dazzling flame. We leaned in closer, stuck out our chilled fingers, and grinned. The company was good. Swapping stories of other wild adventures, funny-with-distance mishaps, and contemplations of life’s purpose exposed us as twenty-four individual human beings. However, our attitude towards life clumped us together and marked us as different, odd. Stinging eyes served us only as a reminder of the smoke that billowed from our fire. The simple soup and pb&j tortillas sustained us without complaint. Our sweat-stained t-shirts were our armor against the night’s bite. We recognized the comfort that simplicity brings.


   At the end of the third night, we sprawled out on a boulder that jutted over the rumbling of hills and under the spherical expanse of wonder. Sounds of the Lumineers’ Stubborn Love soothed us into silence. We watched the leaps of light perform upon the inky, black stage. Noticing the three glowing dots of Orion’s belt, pointing, whispering. Without a camera separating my vision and the moment, I swiveled my head right, then left as I captured the memory. I carry that photo in my back pocket now that I have had to exit the woods and reenter the world. Walking back to my apartment after a rough night at the library, I look up, disappointed that no friendly wink meets my glance. Yet, the memories I made this Easter Break serve as a clear reminder of what it means to be full of light- to live simply, talk deeply, and savor the gifts of creation.


Julia Hall
2018 River Stewards Cohort