By Haley Hermann, James River Association Intern
Flip-flops were not going to cut it.
As Evie and Deana unpacked their trunk stocked with water testing supplies, I glanced down to see mid-calf rubber water boots covering their feet. These seasoned volunteers explained to me that the best way to get an accurate bacteria sample was to wade out into the water to reach a spot where the river was flowing smoothly. It became apparent that I was dealing with experts.
Active members in the Charlottesville community, Evie and Deana Sackett have offered their services in a multitude of ways over the last few years helping programs and organizations that include the James River Association and the Rivanna Conservation Alliance’s Stream Watch Program. Currently, these two volunteers are assisting with the James River Association’s and the Rivanna Conservation Alliance’s Stream Watch summer water quality monitoring project, where spots along the James and Rivanna are sampled for bacteria and reported via the James River Watch website www.jamesriverwatch.org.
Upon approaching the mother-daughter duo, I was greeted with warm smiles and genuine personalities. Evie, now going into 10th grade at Monticello High School, had just returned from a two week trail restoration trek through the Shenandoah Valley with the Girl Scout organization that she’s been involved with since elementary school. Her mother, Deana informed me that she and her daughter have been participating in environmental volunteer activities for many years now. It is clear that these two enjoy spending time with each other and bond over a shared investment in nature and the desire to protect it.
Evie and Deana come from a science driven, nature-loving family and spend their time exploring the local parks and river spots while keeping their eyes out for various butterfly and wildlife species surrounding them. Deana, who has studied molecular and cellular biology, finds comfort in the lab work involved in the bacteria testing, as it brings her back to her days after graduation working under the microscope. Both have assisted in checking not only for bacteria within the river, but have also helped in a biannual testing of the health of the James River Watershed through StreamWatch. The river is tested in the spring and fall by observing the presence or absence of small organisms in the riverbeds. They’ve explained to me with excitement the process of discovering these macroinvertebrates in the water that are not typically seen by the everyday swimmer. Collection nets scoop up organisms such as snails and prawns, the latter of which Evie found to be one of the most beautiful creatures in the water!
Seeing these volunteers so vibrantly participating in activities to protect the health of the river is reminiscent of humans’ deep connection with nature and the comfort and meaning that this bond can bring to one’s tireless labor. Thank you Evie and Deana for your hard work and dedication!