Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Lonely Stewardman

Somewhere in South Central Utah
I believe it was about 3 days in when I had a special realization. “I’ve never went more than 1 day and 1 night without seeing at least 1 person that I know”. At that point, I really knew that my journey had begun. So there I was, driving through Arkansas, en route to Texas, seeing ahead of me 17 more days of this solo travel experience. In my 20th year, 20 days on the road, 20 states, 6,100 miles, 11 National Parks, and 160 hours of sleep in the back of my red Mercury. The idea of it excited me. Perhaps that’s because I’m the crazy dude on the road who talks to himself and dances alone in the car. Whatever it is, I enjoy being alone. This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy being with others. Like with all things, there is a time for everything.
             I will say this, being alone that long brings new thoughts to mind. Beyond just thoughts, new perspectives, new habits, and new visions come too. All because it’s a new experience. I so often found myself truly feeling another person there with me. After so many nights, I just felt like surely by now there is someone else next to me watching the moon peek over that desert ridge. For just brief moments in time, I would forget I was the only one seeing, hearing, and feeling these currents of time. If you know me, then be assured I thought of you. I thought of everyone in my life. Enough time had passed that I no longer missed one person like you would miss your mom or your closest friend in a certain moment. I got to a point where I wanted to be with every person I’ve ever met. I wanted to hear the voices and experience the personalities. This wasn’t a sad sort of longing though. I only felt a happiness come over me that I suddenly realized everything in this universe is connected. And that is where the water enters my story. 
Ran into a Momma bear and her
cub 10 minutes after this.
Peaks of Otter, VA
Every person I’ve met, every action I’ve taken, and every place I had ever been to had led me to where I am. I felt I had known that for some time, but it was now much clearer. The kind of clarity that can never be grasped by words. Similar to when you have a really clear thought in your mind about something, but you just can’t put words to it for someone else.
       If you drive down the road from Mt. Rushmore about a half-mile there is a lake on the left nestled in the gray rocks of the Black Hills Forest. Walk around the lake going clockwise and you will come to a bridge. To the woods left of that bridge there is a skinny little blocked off trail that leads to a charming little waterfall hidden in the trees. So of course it wasn’t long before I was in the chilly water feeling the slick rocks under my bare feet. There, shivering in the water, hearing nothing but the gentle crash of the stream, I heard the voice of the water. It said, “Cody, I enjoy your company, but you’re really messing up my flow”. Haha okay that’s my only crappy river joke I’ll tell. But in truth, the water did speak to me. It just spoke to me in a language that is beyond the limits of our own words. And I smiled, cause I knew that all this time I was right. I wasn’t alone. I was not the only one seeing the double rainbow form across the prairie land in South Dakota. It wasn’t just me
Wind Cave National Park, SD
that felt the mist of the waterfall upon my skin in the San Juan Mountains. To take the words of Alan Watts, “You do not find bees where there are no flowers, and you do not find flowers where there are no bees”. They are mutually arising. Thus, they are one in the same, inseparable, just as we are inseparable from everything around us. The water is a part of me and I a part of the water, part of the Earth. Connected we are, all of us, all the time. The birds, the sun, the stars, moon, and rivers. The veins of the universe. Shall we pulse with goodness.

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