Griffin Watershed Protection Specialist named statewide trainer of the year

City of Griffin Watershed Protection Specialist Alexa Robinson, center left, has been selected as the Georgia Adopt-a-Stream Trainer of the Year. In 2017, Robinson trained 149 citizens to act as scientists to assist in monitoring local waterways. Photo courtesy of Alexa Robinson

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

City of Griffin Watershed Protection Specialist Alexa Robinson has been selected as the 2017 Adopt-a-Stream Trainer of the Year. The Adopt-a-Stream program is the environmental education arm of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, and the award represents Robinson’s efforts to teach classes, certify volunteers and monitor and participate in the crucial water quality program.

Robinson describes the program as one that develops scientists of citizens.

“This program is a water quality monitoring program that involves citizens. It gets them to be citizen scientists,” she said. “We train them – we give them the training, the tools, the knowledge and the courage to go and do water quality monitoring in their communities, and then all of their information that they collect is uploaded to a central database, collecting all of the water quality data that we could not.”

She said this volunteer base provides essential information that otherwise would be absent.

“As municipalities, we’re limited in how many people we have and how much time, and so this helps us because these people go through a workshop, they take a test and they have to follow strict protocol, so the water quality data they collect, we can trust it. It’s really great because they provide us information all across Georgia on bodies of water we’re not able to touch as often as we’d like,” Robinson said.

Although Robinson has been employed by the city of Griffin for less than a year and a half, she has been involved in the Adopt-a-Stream water quality program for ten years, and previously worked for the UGA Extension Service in Spalding County. Her work with the city of Griffin now provides her with greater means to increase the network of information on local water quality.

“In 2017, I trained 149 people, but my job is not just to train,” she said. “It’s also to reach out to people and create partnerships between them and the local government, so they’ll feel comfortable bringing their water quality issues to the local government.”

The effects of her work in Griffin reach well beyond the city limits. By training and equipping volunteers to conduct these important functions, Robinson is directly impacting water quality for literally many millions of people. This importance of this reach is something Robinson stresses.

“We all live in a watershed and everything we do effects our watershed and directly effects our water quality, and because of the way that our water systems are designed by nature, all the little streams and tributaries, they all lead to a greater body of water. That’s wonderful because it takes this little trickling stream – it starts out as a tiny little trickle – and eventually, when they all combine together, it creates this beautiful rushing river. Well, the issue with that is it also means that every single pollutant that enters each little tiny stream is going to end up joining together and combining into that beautiful river,” Robinson said. “So, for example, if we have the Flint River, which has a lot of issues, you have all of these pollutants entering this river through its little tributaries, and of course directly through runoff, so it’s very difficult to keep track of that. It takes a lot of hours and money and manpower, and as much as I would love to monitor streams every single day, I can’t, so these people, they’re our eyes on the ground. They’re our boots on the ground. They’re the ones who go out to these streams and they monitor, and they check the water quality and they help us keep a little better in touch with some of the smaller bodies of water that might be overlooked.”

Georgia EPD initiated the Adopt-a-Stream program 25 years ago. The importance of the data collected over those years is immense.

“That means that there is 25 years of data that people have been collecting on these water bodies, so that means if we’re going to start doing changes – if we’re going to start building things, if we want to design a new mall or want to build another part of the airport, when we have this water quality data, we can look at it and tell if we’ve impacted negatively or positively the water quality around us, so it gives us some really central information about how we’ve impacted our water,” Robinson said.

While she clearly is passionate about the importance of her work, Robinson also immensely enjoys it.

“To be able to have a job where I can be outside and work in the rain and crawl through bushes and find myself in yet another stream? I love that,” she said.

 

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