Nathalie Eegholm, a senior at River Hill High School in Clarksville, Maryland, used her Independent Research class as an opportunity to help her community. She is a member of the school’s National Honor Society and Ecology club, and her community’s Watershed Committee.
In May and June of 2014, I helped the River Hill Watershed Committee (Howard County) lead an initiative to re-stencil the storm drains along Great Star Drive in Clarksville, Maryland. The volunteers included students at River Hill High School, parents, and members of the Watershed Committee.
As a high school junior, I took the Independent Research class offered at my school. I studied harmful algal blooms (HABs), including their causes, effects on the Chesapeake Bay, and mitigation techniques. These methods include implementing more prudent fertilization practices, increasing populations of oysters and submerged aquatic vegetation in the Bay, and reducing the amount of waste that makes its way into the watershed. An essential component of the research class is a final project. But, instead of creating the usual powerpoint or brochure, I decided that I wanted to make a lasting impact on my community. I contacted the River Hill Watershed Committee, presented my work and ideas, and became the designated leader of the project to re-stencil the storm drains.
Far too often, people throw pet waste, lawn clippings, trash, and other harmful materials into storm drains. They probably do not realize that these substances go straight to the Bay where they can lead to the growth of HABs, damage the ecosystems, and harm the wildlife! The goal of our stenciling project was to prevent pollution of the Bay and to raise awareness about how human actions, even unintentional, can have consequences for the Bay.
The first step I had to take was obtaining permission at the county level to do the project. Then, I created a list of materials and a budget, and once that was approved, went shopping for materials. In order to get volunteers to help out, I asked friends, peers from my research class, members of the National Honor Society and Ecology Club, and even the local Boy Scouts. Though we were a small group, we worked diligently, so in only a few sessions of work, we were able to stencil over 50 storm drains with the words “Only Rain Down the Drain” and “Drains to Patuxent River.” We had a lot of fun during the process, and celebrated our success with snow cones!
In early October 2014, I went on a field trip to the Philip Merrill Environmental Center with my AP Environmental Science class. In the past I have also participated in summer camps in which I have sailed on the Chesapeake Bay, collected and analyzed water samples, and learned about the estuary. Marine biology and environmental science have always been passions of mine!
After the stenciling project, I became a member of the Watershed Committee. As a member, I have plenty of opportunities to help our community and get others involved, too. Recently, we planned and recruited volunteers for a Weed Warrior event. Students and adults weeded out invasive species around the local gym’s storm water retention pond and planted native species, such as pickerelweed, Blue Flag iris, and mistflower.
To continue our efforts in stenciling storm drains, we hope to stencil the drains at the local elementary, middle, and high schools in the near future.
---Nathalie Eegholm, Senior, River Hill High School
Check out the River Hill Watershed Committee's facebook page for more about their work.
Photos provided by Nathalie.