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Birmingham and Science

The Cahaba River Society, The March for Science, and a Community Adventure

April 18, 2017 by Nicole Watkins, Director of Community Outreach.

With the March for Science coming up at the end of the week, we've been thinking a lot about the environment. On our social media last week, we posted, "What we stand for is what we stand on." This is a mantra for all of us on the committee, and to that end, we got in contact with the Cahaba River Society a few weeks ago to plan a field trip.

Cahaba River Society does fantastic community work right here in Birmingham. They offer educational trips, increase river recreation and tourism, clean up trash, spread information about river ecology and biodiversity, and strengthen policies that support our environment. We have noted several times as a committee that there are so many organizations that do wonderful work right here in the Magic City, and yet so much of the population is relatively unaware of the work they do.

Matt, Nicole, and Doug posing
Matt, Nicole, and Doug posing

This week, we wanted to put the spotlight on the Cahaba River Society. Beth Stewart, the Executive Director, will be our first speaker on Saturday. She will talk about the importance of clean water and the connection that we all have to the environment around us. With the help of Beth, as well as Gordon Black, the CRS Education Director, and La'Tanya Scott, the Environmental Educator, we went to experience exactly what the river has to offer. We wanted a chance to gain a better understanding of the delicate ecological balance that makes up the Cahaba River, and we wanted the opportunity to engage the community at large in a fun, educational, and scientific experience.

Your brave March for Science committee boarded their canoes and launched themselves into the Cahaba River, along with several members of the Birmingham community. Some of us had experience canoeing, and some of us didn't, and Gordon made one comment that really stood out to me. He mentioned that a lot of people who go on the field trip expect to encounter the full range of Wizard of Oz madness (lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!) and have had severely limited experience in the environment. It got me thinking, though - what can we do to try to encourage people to spend time in the beautiful environment available to us right here in our city? The Science March would like to be able to help open those doors, and we want to hear from the community regarding how we can work to do just that.

Dobson Fly Larvae
Dobson Fly Larvae
The Cahaba River has more different species per mile than any other river habitat; it has 128 native species, and 135 in total. We had the pleasure of encountering many of these (including a rather impressive Dobson fly larvae that made quite a few of us jump), and we had a chance to hold a variety of species of fish in the palms of our hands. We had the chance to scout out macroinvertebrates, and listen to La'Tanya tell us about their habitats (video). We walked in the river, some of us tipped over our canoes (not naming any names), and we learned so much. The trip was simultaneously peaceful, educational, and a reminder of exactly what we are trying to preserve.

I've said often that there is work to be done beyond the March itself, and this is certainly something we all agree upon as a committee. We do not intend to show up on Saturday, pat ourselves on the back, and go home. The canoe trip reminded us why we march. We march so the next generation can have the opportunity we had last week; we march for clean water, clean air, and scientific education for our children and our children's children. We march for organizations like the Cahaba River Society, and we at the March for Science want to sincerely thank the entire staff for giving us this wonderful opportunity to remember why we do this work.

Please consider supporting the Cahaba River Society in any way that you can, whether that be volunteering, donating, attending fundraisers, or spreading the word. We want to see future generations experience the Cahaba, and they need our help as a community in order to make that future possible.

Matt and Lindsey above water
Matt and Lindsey in a canoe
The Cahaba Route
The group riding down the Cahaba River
Candid photo courtesy of Bill Nunnelee
Candid photo of the group preparing to get their life vests courtesy of Bill Nunnelee.


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