On Your Mark, Get SWAMP'ed, GO!

Mobile Baykeeper and AmeriCorps SWAMP Program members are: (L-R) Braxton Orso, Ryann Wilcoxon, Ilka Porter, Kassey Tahanas.

Mobile Baykeeper and AmeriCorps SWAMP Program members are: (L-R) Braxton Orso, Ryann Wilcoxon, Ilka Porter, Kassey Tahanas.

Mobile Baykeeper and AmeriCorps Program Members have big plans to change the way people in Mobile and Baldwin counties think about water. It starts with our Strategic Watershed Awareness and Monitoring Program (SWAMP)- an education action program that teaches students and adults about watersheds, water quality, and trains them to become certified water quality monitors to protect the environment.

The SWAMP team wants people to understand that during a rainstorm runoff from yards, roadways, construction sites, and even sewage overflows all end up in Mobile Bay via local waterways because everywhere is part of a watershed. This runoff can have severe negative impacts on water quality in the Mobile Bay Watershed. It is important to keep our water clean so that our community members can be healthy and thrive. Everything around us depends on clean water. Fish populations depend on clean water. Our economy depends on clean water. Beachgoers, tourists, and locals who recreate on the water expect and deserve clean water. Connecting everyday actions of individuals and companies to potentially negative impacts on watersheds will help increase awareness, leading to more responsible citizens, and in the long run, a cleaner bay for future generations.

Fairhope High School students learn about watersheds through the water table demonstration.

Fairhope High School students learn about watersheds through the water table demonstration.

SWAMP’s vision to accomplish the goal of a clean watershed consists of educating and engaging the community. Throughout Mobile and Baldwin counties, SWAMP has been working to build students’ knowledge of local environmental issues from the ground up. From elementary to high school, SWAMP is going into classrooms teaching students at every level. SWAMP starts each presentation with a basic understanding of a watershed, using students’ local waterways as prime examples. Next, we teach students about different types of pollutants and how these pollutants are affecting the Mobile Bay Watershed. The classroom presentation is concluded by discussing how anyone can become involved in making a positive impact on the Mobile Bay Watershed. So far we have been able to present to students at Fonde Elementary and high school students at Alma Bryant, Citronelle, LeFlore, Vigor, and Fairhope.

Citronelle High School tudents train to become water quality monitors.

Citronelle High School tudents train to become water quality monitors.

Using these presentations as a groundwork of knowledge, high school students then have the opportunity to participate in SWAMP’s Monitoring Program. Local high schools students from Alma Bryant, Citronelle, Fairhope, LeFlore, and Vigor are taken on field trips to their local creeks and rivers to be trained as water quality monitors with SWAMP educators. Students are trained to test water quality and identify possible solutions within their local community. This gives them a skill set that goes beyond the classroom, creating responsible citizens who are invested in clean water. Training, testing, and implementing solutions are made possible by grants received from AM/NS Calvert, Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA), NOAA B-WET, EPA Environmental Education Program, and Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP).

Throughout the semester, students will learn how to conduct several water quality tests. These water quality tests will consist of measuring dissolved oxygen and pH levels, ranking turbidity, and identifying hazardous bacteria levels. Once students test the water several times during the semester, they will identify any observed patterns, work to discover the cause of any issues, and identify solutions. The goal of this program is to increase stewardship of the Mobile Bay Watershed by creating young adults who are passionate about clean water.

SWAMP Educator, Ilka Porter, teaches students how to conduct water quality tests.

SWAMP Educator, Ilka Porter, teaches students how to conduct water quality tests.

Throughout the year, SWAMP will continue their education initiatives with students and adults. The goals of the program include educating over 3,000 people, giving 40 presentations, and collecting 1250 surveys on watershed fundamentals during the 2018-2019 school year. Some of the fundamentals that these surveys will cover involve the local impacts on the Mobile Bay Watershed, how individuals can stay involved in improving water quality, and searching for solutions to issues negatively impacting the watershed.

With over 1,500 people educated, 40 presentations given, and 715 surveys taken since September, SWAMP is off to an amazing start! We are extremely excited to bring watershed awareness and education to Mobile and Baldwin counties and are working hard to reach as many students and citizens as possible.

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#getSWAMPed: If you would like to schedule a presentation for your school or group, please contact Education and Outreach Coordinator, Ilka Porter at iporter@mobilebaykeeper.org or (251) 433-4229.