Doctoral students Rebecca Kidd of Newport, Va., and Matt Johnson of Colonial Heights, Va., conducted research on Virginia’s Blackwater River last summer with Jeff Turner, the Riverkeeper for the Blackwater and Nottoway rivers. In his role as a volunteer for the Riverkeeper Program, Turner patrols both rivers and educates various groups and organizations about the watershed. “What pleases me the most is knowing there are young people out there like Matt and Rebecca who are interested in gaining knowledge that will aid in preserving that environment,” said Turner. “I could not be any happier that those efforts were taking place right there in my rivers that I love so much. It just doesn’t get any better than that.”

“Jeff is very passionate about river conservation,” Kidd observed. “As a result of his many years of experience, he was able to provide additional information regarding the history of the Blackwater River and how water quality has changed over time. It’s always a great opportunity for scientists to interact with hardworking people in the field and to involve the community at which the research is aimed.”

Johnson and Kidd were cruising the river to collect mussel specimens that could be used in their respective research projects. Johnson is studying the relationships between variation in stream flows in coastal plain streams and growth rates of freshwater mussels and trees in adjacent flood plains. Kidd’s project focuses on the factors that influence freshwater mussel growth rates in the Nottoway and Blackwater rivers.

“Working with Jeff was great,” said Johnson. “He seemed really interested in our research and asked a lot of questions along the way. We offered to compensate him for his time and gas used, but he refused. He said that someone taking interest in the rivers was payment enough for him.”