Hey everyone, my name is Reggie Payne and I’m currently a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biology with a minor in Environmental Science. This summer, I am the Environmental Science Intern for the James River Association. A big program I will be assisting with is the James River Watch. Every week, we have volunteers who go out to various sites on the James River and its tributaries and collect samples that we then process and analyze back at the lab. These samples will tell us things such as turbidity, conductivity, and most importantly, the E. coli concentration in the water. We release this information to the public to help inform them of water conditions before they interact with the James. I also help with programs such as Greening Richmond Public Libraries and other community outreach events.

My life has been very outdoors-oriented since my childhood. I grew up in northern Virginia with access to the outdoors right in my backyard. My earliest memories involve my friends and I running through the Virginia woods, playing in creeks and ponds, and always finding a way to be outside. My earliest jobs were always at parks and marinas. As I grew older, I retained the love for the outdoors and turned to hiking, kayaking, fishing, camping, and rock climbing to keep me engaged. Out of respect for all that nature has provided for me, I wanted to make sure I help keep nature alive and accessible for everybody.

My work at the James River Association is fulfilling that desire. I love being able to see the impact that programs like River Watch have on the community. Knowing that the work I’m doing is directly helping my community enjoy nature is a dream come true. I applied to this internship with the intention of doing significant conservation and environmental science and I’ve been able to achieve both. I’ve learned so much through my work about the interplay between urban development and the river system, ecological habitats in the James River watershed, the different ways people in the community interact with the environment, and much more. I’m super grateful for this opportunity, excited to continue working with the JRA, and plan to continue to my conservation efforts in the future!