Volunteer citizen scientists have been monitoring water quality as part of the RiverTrends project for over 35 years. Each month, monitors gear up to collect observational data and measure the trends of their local streams, including air and water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, bacteria, and salinity. These dedicated monitors give us a direct connection to communities we work with watershed-wide, providing invaluable local knowledge and support.

Meet Gwen and Walter Harris, a water monitoring duo in York County, Virginia. Since 2018, Gwen and Walter have been collecting and processing water quality samples at Hickory Signpost Creek and Newtown on a monthly basis.

Gwen and Walter have an extensive resume in retirement. Gwen is a retired Medical Laboratory Manager and Walter is a retired Airforce Officer. Walter’s military career has allowed them ample travel opportunities. Now settled in Virginia, they are part of the Tidewater Wood Turners, Historic Rivers Master Naturalists, members of the Hampton Roads Bird Club, monitor bluebird boxes, and monitor water quality. Gwen is also a Master Gardener and has created a Certified Wildlife Habitat yard. We feel very lucky to have them as a part of our monitoring community.

With a background in biology, Gwen started with monitoring macroinvertebrates for James City County, then switched to chemical water quality monitoring. Gwen and Walter love being outside and observing nature while they collect their samples.

 “We feel good about our surveillance being a benefit to the overall Chesapeake Bay water quality program. We worry about our streams’ as the pH levels and oxygen saturations change. We shake our heads as people dump their household trash nearby. We try to live by example and encourage all our friends and family members to participate and take notice of their total environment. Monitoring one small steam shows how we are connected to the planet.”

Thank you, Gwen and Walter, for dedicating so much of your time to making the Chesapeake Bay watershed a healthier place for years to come. Our volunteers inspire us to continue working toward our vision of clean streams and rivers flowing through resilient landscapes.

Interested in becoming a water quality monitor? Visit the RiverTrends page to learn more.