Dr. Dann Sklarew‘s Sustainability in Action course (EVPP 480) always participates in a river clean up. This is the third clean up of 2018, during the summer session, and students enjoyed great weather for kayaking on the Occoquan. Balloons, a beach ball, water bottles, and fishing line were some of the most commonly found items. The kayaks were generously provided by Occoquan Regional Park.
Featured Image: Dr. Dann Sklarew‘s Sustainability in Action Course did a clean up of the Occoquan river in April 2017. They braved the wind to collect 19 bags of trash! The most commonly found items were bottles (glass and plastic), Styrofoam, and fishing line.
Being part of a river community has tremendous perks. Our students and faculty have worked with John Houser and the Occoquan River Community for years, conducting research sharing family-friendly water quality activities at the Occoquan River Festival, as well as updating the community on research and programming on annual Rivershore cruises and participating in river clean-ups. This community has provided Mason students with diverse experiences as well as valuable networking connections.
When the Occoquan Regional Park Manager, John Houser, and the Occoquan Water Trail League (OWL) needed help to complete the installation of mile marker signs along the 40mile stretch of river shore, they immediately looked towards hiring George Mason students. The OWL is a volunteer affiliate of the Occoquan Water Trail and NOVA Parks, composed of recreational paddlers and others committed to low-impact use, conservation and resource stewardship of our shared waterways. Weather and tides permitting, river marker sign installation should be completed by the end of June.
We’re proud to be a part of the newly organized Occoquan River Communities Alliance, said PEREC’s Dr. Cynthia Smith, where the business, university, parks, town, arts and communities routinely come together supporting each other.
PEREC Faculty and George Mason Students spent a wonderful Saturday at the Occoquan River Fest. The festival was a great place for NOVA residents to learn about the history and environment of the Occoquan River.
PEREC’s booth was dedicated to the health and ecosystem of local Virginia streams. Students and Faculty provided some great hands on activities, by fishing out live organisms for visitors to see up close. Crayfish, amphipods, and cranefly larvae were caught from the river that day and temporarily held in a glass aquarium. Children were able to get up close and personal, using magnifying glasses to get a detailed look at the organisms from their backyard.
“It’s great seeing the excitement in young kids when they examine small critters like crayfish and cranefly larvae up close,” says Kim De Mutsert.
George Mason graduate and undergraduate students were able to practice their science communication skills, with children and adults alike. The students explained that the number and types of organisms found in a river help scientists determine how “healthy” (i.e. unpolluted) the waterway is.
But it wasn’t just GMU students doing to the teaching.
“It was so interesting to see how much the parents would learn from their kids,” Grad student, Jessica Melton says. “The kids would tell their parents that what we caught was only 100 meters away. They’d explain to them what a cranefly was (Parents often thought it was a nuisance or large mosquito) as it’s very common in the area. The parents realized that it’s actually a beneficial species to keep around.”
That kind of experience is what made the day a success.
An annual event, PEREC looks forward to next year’s Occcoquan River River Fest!