As a child, my first pull to northeastern Oklahoma was water – specifically, the promise of clear water and large lakes. In my father’s hometown, I played in creeks and swam in the same farm ponds that provided drinking water to cattle. There were nearby lakes that I found magical, but my father promised me that I just didn’t know good lakes. The ones near us were murky and muddy, he said, nothing like the large and clear lakes in northeastern Oklahoma. One summer, my siblings and I all piled in his truck and drove for what felt like hours and hours. When we finally arrived, my father pulled over on top of a hill overlooking the lake. Something was wrong. As far as we could see, dead fish scarred the water’s surface. My father told us we couldn’t swim. He suspected that chicken waste, dumped in the river that fed the lake, had killed the fish. But it could’ve been anything… We drove away disappointed. This is my first memory of both water in northeastern Oklahoma and consciously seeing the ill-effects of human industrial activity. (read more)
“How many liters of water do you use a day?” I asked the dozen students sitting around me. A couple of students threw out some guesses, positing that they used somewhere between 20 to 30 liters per day. That aligned with my own estimations: ten liters for bathing, two to three liters for drinking, ten for dishes and cleaning, maybe five for cooking. We were talking about water conservation in their small rural village in Central Zambia. One student raised his hand. “Madam, how much water do people use every day in America?” I had the number ready because I had looked it up the night before. “A family in the US uses about 300 gallons per day.” Shouts erupted around me. “300 gallons! But what are they using that for?” I remember laughing and thinking to myself, I'm teaching environmental conservation to the wrong people.
At the time, I was serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer. After my experience in Zambia, I moved back to the United States with the singular goal of working as an environmental educator. I landed a job with Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in New Orleans, Louisiana, as their Citizen Science Program Coordinator. I designed and directed their citizen science program from scratch through engaging students and community members in local, regional, and national research projects. I taught them how to use specific protocols to contribute data for national and local research projects focused on biocontrol agents, phenology, invasive species, amphibian monitoring, water quality testing, and bird monitoring. (read more)
An abundance of water or the lack of it has always featured heavily in my life. I grew up in the tropical island of Jamaica which is known as the “Land of Wood and Water”. Although surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, as you traverse the island you will be hard pressed to travel 5 miles without encountering a stream or water feature. Water is intertwined into every aspect of social, economic and cultural life. As children, we regularly went to the beach and played in a stream adjacent to our family farm, oblivious of the connections to exposure to agrochemical runoff from the farm that provided my family’s livelihood. Religious groups perform rituals such as baptisms in water bodies across the island. Tourism, the main contributor to the national economy, is built around water resources as a key natural asset. (read more)