Crimson Clover, a “Cover Crop” that can be planted in an off-season on a crop field which can improve soil health while helping to reduce erosion.

Hello! I’m Tom Dunlap, and I’m taking the helm as the new James RIVERKEEPER™. I will be working hard to provide a voice for the James, bolster people’s access to clean water in the watershed, and overall, advocate for a fishable, swimmable, and safe river. I will be monitoring the river, addressing issues that can impact its health, and working side by side with the rest of our advocacy team on issues across the watershed. I come to the James RIVERKEEPER™ position as a resident of Richmond, a Conservation Specialist, and a big fan of getting outside to enjoy all of our natural resources.

I came home to Virginia in 2008 to finish my undergraduate degree in Richmond. Since then, I have spent countless hours at the James River enjoying the region’s sights, sounds, and people. I received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University, where I studied environmental science, and then focused on aquatic biogeochemistry as a graduate student; tracing the flow of nutrients and the carbon cycle in lakes, streams, and estuaries. While finishing my graduate work, I had the opportunity to intern with the prior James RIVERKEEPER, which had an indelible effect on my professional direction. After graduate school, I spent time intentionally getting my hands dirty working at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, as an urban forester for a small outfit in the greater Richmond region, and at the Colonial Soil & Water Conservation District on the North banks of the Lower James.

Up a Bald Cypress tree after a race to the top (it was a tie). Photo: Matt Lee, Root Down Tree Management

For six years with the Colonial SWCD, I worked with the agricultural community on on-the-ground conservation efforts. Our staff managed multiple record years of water quality project installations, as well as successfully implemented many grant-based projects ranging in scope from community garden creation to promotion of emerging technologies in farm management. A highlight of my time at the Colonial SWCD was running a three-year program on the promotion of precision agricultural techniques, to improve farm fertilizer use-efficiency and in turn, reduce nutrient loading impacts on our waterways. This work took place in nine localities in the Lower James River watershed with thousands of acres of best management practices implemented thanks to our excellent group of participating farm operators.

In my spare time, I like to get outside all year long, running, cycling, climbing, fishing, and kayaking. I also like to grow produce and native plants and have recently taken up beekeeping, which if you know any tips or tricks, I am all ears. I am excited to work with the James River Association as the voice of the river! I look forward to seeing you out there and learning about what makes the James special to you.

If you have thoughts, questions, or concerns about the James River, or see something on the water or in the watershed that you think I need to know about, don’t hesitate to reach out. We are always keeping an eye out for pollution, unauthorized discharges, and in general, happenings on the river that require a second look!

James River Association’s 2022 Annual Meeting is taking place on October 17th at Hardywood West Creek. I hope you stop by to see me in person! Learn more about the event here.