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Students Explore Photography and Science on North Fork with College Profs

Science teacher Lee Good with environmental science students exploring the North Fork. Photo by Steven Johnson.
Science teacher Lee Good with environmental science students exploring the North Fork. Photo by Steven Johnson.

Eastern Mennonite High School students in environmental science and chemistry classes spent a recent afternoon along the North Fork of the Shenandoah River in Bergton, Virginia, doing chemical analysis and studying macroinvertebrates, organisms that lack a spine and are large enough to be seen with the naked eye. They also were introduced to underwater photography.

Three professors from Eastern Mennonite University facilitated the study as part of a citizen monitoring grant from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The grants support the Citizen Monitoring Project which encourages volunteers who observe streams, rivers and lakes in their backyard. Volunteers check water quality, participate in stream cleanups and stream bank restoration, and help educate their neighbors.

“What a wonderful early fall day to be outside with your students,” commented Doug Graber Neufeld, professor of biology and director of the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions. “I was especially grateful for the students listening to local residents talk about how the river is important to them; those are voices that unfortunately aren’t always heard when we think about issues of river health.”

Steven Johnson, professor of visual and communication arts, introduced students to conservation photography, for which EMU students have earned national recognition. Even using simple pocket cameras, the students were able to gather images of salamanders and other stream creatures, an important component of environmental advocacy.

“By partnering with scientists,” explains Johnson, “photographic storytellers can help interpret stream health surveys to the public in a way that is immediate and engaging.”

The EMHS teachers involved were Lee Good, science teacher, and Kevin Carini, who teaches chemistry, physics and robotics.

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