Waterway Protection: A Toolkit for Youth Leaders Around the World


Water: A global connector of communities around the world.  As populations increase, communities must collaborate to ensure continued access to clean drinking water.  As Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, writes in the 2016 World Water Development Report, “water is essential to decent jobs and sustainable development. Now is the time to increase investments in protecting and rehabilitating water resources, including drinking water, as well as sanitation while focusing on generating employment.” The question is: How will the future caretakers of the world–the youth of our global community–learn how to protect water?

A team from the Saw Kill Watershed Community (SKWC), the Bard College Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), and Environmental and Urban Studies (EUS) program at Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson, New York) worked in collaboration with the student-led Eco-Squad of Astrakhan State University (Astrakhan, Russia), to establish a trans-national partnership based on the shared values of stewardship and environmental education for the protection of waterways. The team worked together over 10 months to create activities that engage youth in protecting water starting in the communities close to the Hudson and Volga River watersheds where Bard College and Astrakhan are located.

The materials are a compilation of cross-cultural education and stewardship activities that can help teachers, professors, educators and community leaders creatively engage young people both in and out of the classroom. The activities contained in this Toolkit reflect the combined efforts of all members of the team and are written in such a manner to reach a wide, international audience and to use in any community.

To download a copy in English or Russian, click a link below:

Note: This is a blog post about the US-Russia Exchange. These documents will be permanently filed here: https://sawkillwatershed.wordpress.com/waterway-protection-a-toolkit-for-youth-leaders-around-the-world/


An Unfinished History of the “by no means beautiful village of Annandale”

In 1988 an employee of Historic Hudson Valley (then owners of the Montgomery Place) wrote a 79-page history of Annandale, the hamlet near the mouth of the Saw Kill. With many maps and juicy details from historic documents, Pamela Goddard lays out a story of mills, farms, and estates developed, divided up, and passed from one generation of European-Americans to another. In the process the place names and the people’s names change, but you can recognize the old familiar Saw Kill through the many changes. To read more, download An Unfinished History of the “by no means beautiful village of Annandale”.

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“Map of Rhinebeck, previous to 1812” published in E.M. Smith’s History of Rhinebeck, 1881. As described in An Unfinished History of the “by no means beautiful village of Annandale” by Pamela Goddard, of Historic Hudson Valley, 1988

SKWC in Russia!


Some SKWC members visited Astrakhan, Russia this week to exchange ideas about SKWC-like work. This was part of a Bard College Center for Civic Engagement and Environmental and Urban Studies program grant. This blog post is by Interim Leadership Team member Tom O’Dowd and Bard CCE Science Outreach Coordinator Siira Rieschl (3rd and 4th from the left here; Bard students Sammy Astrachan–yes that is his name–and Emma Donahue are 1st and 2nd from the left). The Volga is seen here from the Astrakhan Kremlin belltower.

Exchanging Ideas about Protecting Waterways through Youth Engagement

We’re writing from the Moscow Airport reflecting on an amazing week. Our friends from the Astrakhan State University Eco Squad taught us all about the Volga River watershed and how they train the next generation of environmental leaders to protect the Volga. Our ASU hosts Mischa, Denis, and Nastya guided us on exciting excursions to understand their environment and helped us get to know some of the professors, co-workers, project partners, and students working to protect the Volga and its delta. We have learned so much from each other, and plan to continue to collaborate on a toolkit for youth engagement, and also explore future collaborations such as research, publications, and exchanges!


About the Volga River at Astrakhan

The Volga River is about 6 times as long as the Hudson River and the Astrakhan Oblast occupies the downstream area of the Volga Watershed as the river enters the land-locked Caspian Sea. The city of Astrakhan lies along the banks of the Volga itself, but is surrounded by many small rivers that make up the Volga Delta. It’s fascinating that the Volga begins with many tributaries and ends with many channels—it’s almost like the delta is a reverse-watershed. Just as the Saw Kill Watershed Community protects a small tributary of the Hudson, the Astrakhan State University’s Eco-Squad protects smaller channels throughout the Volga delta region, like the Churka. A river clean-up of the Churka, reminiscent of the Riverkeeper Sweep on the Hudson, had high school students collecting trash that floated onto land during the floods of the Spring wet season. It seems that Russia (like the U.S.) has its share of people who respect the health and beauty of the water, as well as those who don’t. This hands-on activity encourages youth to face head-on the health of the watershed in a way that tangibly complements their in-classroom experience.

Our excursions to explore the natural resources of the Volga were as varied as trips to a wildlife preserve, a sturgeon-breeding farm, various science labs, and a training center for Lukoil (a petroleum company that mines gas from platforms on the Caspian Sea). At the wildlife preserve we saw a landscape similar to that of the Tivoli Bays—Bard’s part of the Hudson River. There were cattails and willows, just like at Bard. There were also phragmites and water chestnut, nonnative and invasive plants at Bard, but apparently native to Astrakhan. We also saw the lotus, a symbol of Astrakhan, growing wild much the same way pickerelweed grows on the Hudson. It’s flowering season over, we sampled the seeds of the lotus fruit, which were delicious.

Sturgeon are also symbols of Astrakhan (more universally than Atlantic and Short-nosed sturgeon are symbols of the Hudson River). The private sturgeon breeding plant we visited raised several species of sturgeon native to the Volga and other parts of Russia. Apparently a major hydroelectric operation on the Volga has curtailed sturgeon catches. These fascinating creatures are on the endangered species list in the U.S. and in “the red book” in Russia. They are sensitive to PCBs and other environmental disturbances, so they can serve as important symbols of conservation as well as culture.

The Lukoil plant showed us how important the gas and oil businesses are in the Caspian Region (Astrakhan is home to many Gazprom offices as well). So far Russian platforms haven’t suffered a disaster such as the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but there do seem to be some environmental consequences of drilling and shipping oil. That being said, Lukoil and others fund the protection of wildlife preserves and pay for some environmental education programs.

About the people of Astrakhan

An exchange of ideas comes with an exchange of understanding and a magnification of empathy and friendship. This was our experience visiting our friends from the Astrakhan State University Eco Squad. I now better understand the Volga watershed, its issues, and its protectors, as well as a bit about the people of an important lesser-known region, and I think the people understand us a little bit more as well.

Mischa, Denis, and Nastya and their colleagues were some of the kindest people we have ever met. They gave so much of their time and energy to provide us a full and enjoyable experience, and were deeply curious about us and our work. The students we worked with on the clean up were inspiringly positive and hard-working (and sang some great Russian folk songs and pop songs!). Everywhere we went we were treated to delicious hand-cooked meals like Ookha (fish stew), teas, and sweets. We now consider these people and this place near and dear to our hearts. We will never forget all that we learned during our time with our Russian friends and it has enriched our lives and work forever.

Take-Homes and Next-Steps.

The Bard College students and student members of the ASU Eco-Squad will continue to collaborate on the Toolkit for Youth Engagement in Waterway Protection through Skype Sessions and emails. Tom and Siira will continue to guide the students creating the toolkit and planning workshops for Bard College faculty, staff, and students and members of the Saw Kill Watershed Community. We have so many ideas from our trip that we’d like to share. We will also be reaching out to our colleagues at ASU to discuss future collaborations like collaborative research and publications in journals. We’re all hopeful for future grant-funded international exchanges—but we’ll work on the projects at hand first! We have planted the seeds of friendship and collaboration through this project, and we will cultivate these as if they were a lotus or a sturgeon, and reap many benefits now and in the future.


STREAM WALK! 9/23 at Noon!

Dear Saw Kill friends and neighbors,

Please join us next Friday, September 23rd, from Noon to 4PM for the first Saw Kill Stream Walk! It should be a great time getting to know the first mile of our precious Saw Kill, and a fun time for all of us, for sure.

Please meet us at the “Community Garden parking lot” near the intersection of Blithewood Road and Bay Road on Bard’s campus. We’ll walk to the start of the official stream walk (near Bard Field station–no good parking down there). If you’re GPS-savvy here are the GPS coordinates of our start location: 42°01’06.1″N 73°54’43.7″W. Or see the image below!

Overview of the Activity: 
A “Stream Walk” is a scientific field assessment method that involves professional and citizen scientists assessing the health of a section of a stream based on visual criteria. This is done by walking along the edge of the stream or wading right down the middle. We’ll make observations, take measurements, and take notes–it’ll be fun! We’ll see waterfalls as well as plenty of cool plants and animals! (Just today we found many cool, friendly fish and insects in the water!). We gave ourselves 4 hours but it could be over in 2-3!

What to bring: 
A small backpack
A big water bottle
A snack (or 2)
A pencil/pen
Clothes/products for sun/bugs
Rubber boots (or wear our waders)
Socks for boots/waders
Camera (optional)
Binoculars (optional)
Tape measure (optional)

Looking forward to walking and exploring the Saw Kill together!
Tom, Sheila, Sheryl, and Laurie

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Friends or Foes? when Plant Pathogens Make Rain WEDNESDAY, JUNE 15・WEIS CINEMA・4 P.M.

Cindy Morris, Montana State University scientist, is interested in helping to build our understanding of how airsheds and watersheds interact:

Friends or Foes - when plant pathogens make rain - Cindy Morris - SKWC lecture - Dueker friend

“Plant pathogens can cause diseases of considerable importance to food crops, forests, ornamentals, etc. But many of the microorganisms that can cause plant disease also are saprophytes and have aspects of their life history of which little is known. Growing interest in environmental microbiology has helped to uncover surprising aspects of life history of plant pathogens leading to new perspectives on the beneficial role that they might be playing for the environment. One example is Pseudomonas syringae as a plant-associated bacterium first described over 50 years ago. Our vision of its ecology has moved away from ubiquitous epiphytic plant pathogen to multifaceted bacterium sans frontières in fresh water and other ecosystems linked to the water cycle. Discovery of the aquatic facet of its ecology has led to a vision of its life history that integrates spatial and temporal scales spanning billions of years and traversing catchment basins, continents and the planet, and that confronts the implication of roles that are potentially conflicting for agriculture and society at large – as a plant pathogen and as a beneficial actor in processes leading to rain and snowfall. This new ecological perspective has also yielded insight into epidemiological phenomena linked to disease emergence. It sets the stage for the integration of more comprehensive contexts of ecology and evolutionary history into comparative genomic analyses to elucidate how P. syringae subverts attack and defense responses of the cohabitants of the diverse environments it occupies. I will present the vision of the evolving story of the ecology and biology of P. syringae and the conflicting challenges and opportunities for management of plant health and ecosystem services that ensue for this and other plant pathogens.”

April 2nd Event: Celebrating the Saw Kill (at Montgomery Place!)

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175 Years of Scenic Preservation

Bard College, The Montgomery Place Campus

10 AM – 4 PM

A day of programs on history, ecology, landscape, archaeology, art, and architecture

10:00 am Welcome by Bard College President Leon Botstein

10:15 am Keynote address by historian David P. Schuyler, “Montgomery Place: An Enchanted Landscape”

11:15 am Presentation of archival and historical collections by Helene Tieger ‘85, Bard College archivist, and
Cynthia Koch, public historian in residence

11:45 am Presentations by Bard College students

12:15 pm Presentation by Steve Rosenberg, senior vice president, Scenic Hudson, “Conserving History and Landscape”

1:00 – 3:30 pm Historic house museum tours, guided walks, and family-friendly activities
To reserve a lunch for purchase, RSVP to civic@bard.edu by March 28. Event is free and open to the public.

Image: Montgomery Place, Alexander Jackson Davis, courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York

NYS DEC Stream Condition Index (SCI)

The NYSDEC Hudson River Estuary Program has created a Stream Condition Index (SCI) to identify high quality streams in the Hudson River Estuary watershed. The SCI is a unique dataset that can aid in conserving high quality waterbodies.

Stream Condition Index Factsheet

With help from NYSDEC Division of Water, New York State Water Resources Institute and New York Natural Heritage Program, the SCI tallies eight individual metrics for each stream reach in the Hudson River Estuary watershed and combines them into a condition between low and highest quality. Data on natural cover, agricultural cover, impervious cover, brook trout habitat, hydrologic alteration, aquatic habitat connectedness, stream biological assessment profile, and geomorphological constraint are given independently and combined into one Index for ~40,000 stream reaches. The SCI compliments existing datasets, including New York State’s Waterbody Inventory, by identifying high-quality streams and providing fine-scale, quantitative information that can be tracked into the future.

The Hudson Valley Natural Resource Mapper (http://hudson.dnr.cals.cornell.edu/mapper/) displays the SCI under the Streams tab, as well as many other datasets helpful to understanding a region of interest and the watershed and habitats that are affecting it. If you’re interested in obtaining the data or have questions about the project, please contact Andrew Meyer (Andrew.meyer@dec.ny.gov).

Emily Vail
Watershed Outreach Specialist, Hudson River Estuary Program & NYS Water Resources Institute

 New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
21 South Putt Corners Road, New Paltz, NY 12561
P: (845) 256-3145 | F: (845) 255-3649 | emily.vail@dec.ny.gov