RMS student member partners with Adventure Scientists to test water quality on Wild and Scenic Chattooga River

Kara Campbell

Photo by Jack Henderson. Sierra Nevada University senior Kara Campbell test water quality at Earls Ford, one of six sites along the federally protected Chattooga River included in Adventure Scientists’ (AS) new project focused on tracking and improving water quality in the National Wild & Scenic River (WSR) system.

Kara Campbell has always dreamed of being a hydrologist. She is currently a senior studying Environmental Science and Outdoor Recreation Leadership at Sierra Nevada University. Because her school has transitioned to an online platform, she decided to take her learning on the road to the southeast where she could learn virtually, paddle new rivers and complete volunteer work.

She recently reached out to the River Management Society to locate a volunteer opportunity where she could get more experience testing water quality. In September, she met up with RMS member Jack Henderson at the Chattooga River, where they tested water quality at six strategically selected sites along the river between Whiteside Cove and Lake Tugaloo. Her data will be used by Adventure Scientists (AS) as part of a new project focused on tracking and improving water quality in the National Wild and Scenic River (WSR) system. WSRs are essential for their cultural, recreational, and natural value. However, water quality on the vast majority of these rivers has not been adequately surveyed.

"This was an awesome experience for me because it feels like I’m finally taking small steps into the river management field which I have so eagerly wanted to be a part of since I was a young girl,” she said. “Being a hydrologist has always been my biggest goal. However, I see the growing issue of conservation and protection of our nation’s rivers, and I feel gravitated towards advocating for them. Just from working with Jack for the small amount of time I did, I feel as though I have learned a lot about WSRs, and I made some great relationships and connections with people from the river management field."

Kara Campbell

The AS project enlists paddlers to sample and record pH, temperature, conductivity, total dissolved solids, salinity and dissolved oxygen along selected WSRs and send that data back to Adventure Scientists for tracking. Framed by the five­-year window between the 50th anniversary of the WSR Act (2018) and the federal Clean Water Act (2022), the USDA Forest Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management have partnered with Adventure Scientists to survey water quality on protected rivers across the country, providing necessary data at an unprecedented scale, and equipping local volunteers to sample their local rivers.

Kara concluded that the Chattooga generally fairly clean and non-polluted, but she’s hoping that this sampling will help identify and support resolution of any issues. After this project, she traveled to West Virginia, where she is boating and doing some restoration projects. She is looking forward to harnessing what she has learned in the southeast and applying it on the west coast. 

“I’m trying to get in a lot of hands-on field experience because I want to propose better management techniques and styles to develop a better Comprehensive River Management Plan and gain public interest in the large pollution issue that is currently happening on the Wild and Scenic Kern River,” she said.

RMS is proud to support the next generation of river managers and honored to be a part of Ms. Campbell’s journey to become a hydrologist. RMS supports students through its River Studies & Leadership Certificate, a program which prepares students for a variety of river management careers.