by Hannah Daniels
I cannot remember a time that I haven’t been in complete love with nature. Growing up, always was I surrounded with gorgeous views of rolling hills, water colored trees and clear streams that ran for miles. I try to take full advantage of the state I live in by spending any and all free time I have in this beautiful place I call home. When you spend time in nature and truly take the time to absorb all that it has to offer, it finds a way into your heart. West Virginia has done that to me.
For as long as I have been considering a legitimate career, instead of childhood dreams of becoming a superhero or celebrity, I have wanted to do something that will make a difference to the world we live in. I first wanted to be a wildlife biologist or work as an environmentalist to help protect against chemical spills (this was after the large chemical spill we had in the Elk River in Charleston, WV in 2014), but now I have finally decided on something I wish to pursue for the rest of my live: Habitat improvement and restoration projects.
Recently, I participated in a shadowing program that my college offers. I was fortunate enough to collaborate with the Trout Biologist at our local Division of Natural Resources (DNR). I was not exactly sure what they would have me doing, but it worked out for me to participate in the planning of a stream improvement project at Holly River State Park.
After the Derecho and Super Storm Sandy in 2012, West Virginia has been struggling to restore all the destroyed areas. The storms caused billions of dollars of damages, not only to property but also to infrastructure. Due to the storms bringing down enormous amounts of trees and debris, some of West Virginia’s best brook streams were covered. This has caused a decrease in secure habitats for the natives and reduced stream access for recreation and fishing. The goal of the project that I took part in was to increase pool size for fish and to make the river more accessible for fisherman.
I participated in the measuring and recording of the length and depth of pools, riffles, runs, and glides in Holly River. To increase pool size, they must consider the depth of the water when it is on the high side. The water runs the deepest through the seasons of fall, winter, and spring, when we receive the most precipitation. The project will be completed when the water is at its lowest, in the summer.
In order to improve the pool size, they will need to dig in the already existing pools to make them deeper. Furthermore, they will add large trees in specific areas to create a natural pool as well as a safe hiding place for the fish.
There are many more environmental project opportunities, other than stream restorations. For example, here in West Virginia it is very common for restoration work to occur on old coal mines and logging locations, which are very important when it comes to the health of our environment. For our world to even become close to improving, we need to make sure that areas that have been destroyed or damaged are being restored back to a healthy condition. If we can all take a small part in increasing the health of natural areas around us, we can make a HUGE difference. If you are interested about learning more about what habitat restoration is visit: http://www.mass.gov/eea/waste-mgnt-recycling/water-resources/preserving-water-resources/water-habit-restoration/what-is-habitat-restoration.html.