By Courtnee Pope
Hello, CRBI friends and family!
My name is Courtnee Davenport and I am working as CRBI’s summer bacterial water sampling intern this year.I planted my roots in Romein the summer of 2004 when my family made our last Marine Corps duty station move. I was lucky to be able to see a lot of America in my young life as we travelled across country every two years or so. I give credit to those long car rides through the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, and the grand canyons of the west (not The Grand Canyon as I have never been) for subconsciously molding me into person I am today. I am a self-labeled “nature fangirl” and while I have always had a passion for animals, it wasn’t until I started on a journey of self-discovery and connection that I started to explore and connect with the outdoors in a way I never did when I was growing up. My love for nature spans all, but the spiritual and emotional connection and motivation I get from being near water, rivers and creeks the most, has helped me pursue my passion—aquatic system conservation and preservation—and continuously grounds me by bringing me back to the present moment.
Outside of the occasional wish that I was a field mouse taking a nap in a wildflower on a sunny, breezy day, I spend the majority of my time finishing up my Fish and Wildlife undergrad program with Oregon State University’s ecampus. That is ultimately how I came to work with CRBI this summer. As the summer intern, I go to three major boat ramps (Heritage Park, Grizzard Park, and Neel’s Landing off 411) and take weekly water samples to determine the level of E. Coli bacteria present in the water. Don’t let the word “E. Coli” worry you! Yes, E. Coli is found in fecal matter and sections of the Etowah, Oostanaula, and Coosa do flow adjacent to agricultural land, so it’s only natural that runoff created from rainstorms or irrigation will get into our water. That is why we monitor our waterways vigilantly to ensure the public is informed on the health of the rivers they swim and fish in. CRBI protects its community with as much passion and vigor as they do our water supply. Once I gather the samples, I bring them back to the CRBI office where I test and incubate the samples for 24 hours. After 24 hours, I evaluate the results of the incubation by placing the samples under florescent light and counting how many hits or glowing bubbles on the sample sheet. You can find the results of the weekly water monitoring by checking Coosa.org or in the Friday edition of the Rome News Tribune.
I chose to pursue an internship with CRBI because I feel a strong pull to advocate and protect the most precious resource of all, water. The waterways CRBI advocates for and educates the public on are some of the most biodiverse waterways in North America. The threat of climate change and resource scarcity make it vital to protect areas with high biodiversity as they support ecosystem stability which in turn means humans can enjoy the recreational and aesthetic gifts of the river. Not only does CRBI advocate tirelessly for protection of the upper Coosa River basin but they also engage with the community in several ways and it is this engagement and connection that helps people take pause and feel apart of the bigger picture.
You’ll notice that I have said “connection” and “community” a few times already and it isn’t by happenstance. Connection to your human community and biological community are a huge part in what makes the efforts of CRBI and other environmental organizations so impactful. An excellent way to establish the community/connection relationship is through a type of research referred to as citizen science. This unique form of collecting data is just as important as professionals doing research. Often times life and its various stresses has a way of making us blind to issues outside of our immediate selves. Bluntly put, we don’t really know what to care about or why we should until we are told to.
Citizen science allows a person to immerse themselves in nature and learn more about Her powers and it provides a significant amount of data on places scientist or environmentalist may otherwise not have access to. Much of the land in the United States is privately owned. This does not make the rivers and creeks that flow through that land immune to the same pollution from factories, agricultural runoff, or urban development that other sections of the waterway are subjected to. Citizen science empowers the everyday enthusiast to take a closer look and to help advocate for change along with helping fill in gaps scientist may not be able to obtain themselves.
We are a part of a whole and we must use our human gifts to protect the whole.
“The rainstorm and the river are my brothers. The heron and the otter are my friends. We are all connected to each other in a circle, in a loop that never ends” – Color of the Wind; Pocahontas