Inspiring the Next Generation of Conservationists

Samantha Briggs, IWLA Save Our Streams Manager
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On November 17, the League signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Trout Unlimited and the American Fisheries Society to work together to engage high-school students in natural resource conservation activities. The MOU came to fruition through the efforts of a group of conservation-minded James Madison High School students participating in a “Trout Out of the Classroom” club and their academic advisor. Club members monitor stream health for the purpose of brook trout reintroduction.

What exactly is a Memorandum of Understanding – and why does it matter? It's an agreement that stipulates an understanding between parties, including goals and responsibilities. While an MOU is nonbinding, it shows a commitment to work together toward a common goal. In this case, the common goal is to build environmental awareness among students and show them how to use the data they collect to conserve, protect, and restore lands and waters in their communities.  

The League sees this as an incredible opportunity to engage high-school students in stream monitoring and inspire the next generation of conservationists.

The MOU signing ceremony took place at James Madison High School, located in Vienna, Virginia. Principal Greg Hood welcomed everyone to the event, which included members of Trout Unlimited, the Izaak Walton League, and the American Fisheries Society as well as students, school staff, and representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Danielle Donkersloot (IWLA), Nick Halle (Trout Unlimited), and Daniel Cassidy (American Fisheries Society) each said a few words about the partnership and recognized the efforts of Dr. Kirk Smith, the teacher who created the “Trout Out of the Classroom” club and helped bring the three organizations together around this initiative.


PICTURED (left to right): Nick Halle, Trout Unlimited; Dr. Kirk Smith, James Madison High School; Danielle Donkersloot, Izaak Walton League; Mary Waclawski, James Madison High School student; Hania Abboud, former James Madison High School student; Daniel Cassidy, American Fisheries Society.

We also trained two dozen James Madison students – plus several adults – in the Virginia Save Our Streams monitoring method. (The Virginia protocol has additional quality control measures to meet Department of Environmental Quality requirements to accept the volunteer-collected data.) We began the morning in the classroom. After the MOU signing ceremony, we spent the afternoon at a park in Vienna, Virginia, learning the ins and outs of biological monitoring. Despite being in a fairly urban area, we found plenty of stream life, including small crayfish, crane flies, common net-spinning caddisflies, sow bugs, lunged snails, and a midge fly. Unfortunately there was plenty of trash in the stream as well, which gave us the opportunity to safety measures such as using a rock to disturb the stream bed.

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Everyone at the League is excited to see this partnership blossom. I know I could have benefited from more outdoor experiences coupled with real-world applications of science when I was in high school. These students have the abilities to be successful stream monitors, advocate for change, and “be the voice” for their streams and rivers. The Izaak Walton League looks forward to providing them with the tools they need to do exactly that.

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