Our congratulations to the 2021 Urban Waters Learning Network awardees! These leaders have been chosen for recognition by the Urban Waters Learning Network (UWLN), a partnership of the national nonprofits River Network and Groundwork USA. The Urban Waters Learning Network Awards, sponsored by the US EPA, celebrate significant achievements of individuals who have improved urban waterways and revitalized the neighborhoods around them.
Carrie Merson, Chris Vaughn and Rebecca Reeves, Signature Award
Our Signature Award recognizes three staffers from the San Antonio River Authority, Carrie Merson, Chris Vaughn and Rebecca Reeves, for their environmental education and water quality monitoring efforts. Carrie’s innovative education programs cover issues ranging from nonpoint source pollution to urban sustainability and serve approximately 10,000 students and adults every year across over 100 unique schools and organizations. Chris has led a first of its kind Mission Reach Mussel Survivability Study to assess the potential to reintroduce freshwater mussels to the San Antonio River, providing a national model for improving urban water quality. Rebecca has led a critical Mission Reach Pilot Study to assess bacterial levels in the river, which has the potential to advocate for the return of swimming and to significantly improve perceptions of the water body. In addition to supporting the local communities they serve, Carrie, Chris and Rebecca’s activities also advance the River Authority’s leadership role in the San Antonio Urban Waters Federal Partnership.
A Professor of Biology at Dillard University in New Orleans, Dr. Bernard Singleton goes beyond the core of teaching to promote Black students and minority youth in environmental science and research. He remains a key partner in the struggle to revitalize the Lower 9th Ward neighborhood, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. He listens to community needs and helps them achieve their goals through community science research, STEM education empowerment workshops and seminars, and environmental pollution monitoring for air and water toxicants. Dr. Singleton is also committed to implementing a Community Resilience Plan in the Lower 9th Ward, which will bring badly-needed resources and information to the neighborhood and create a permanent structure for residents to engage in city decision-making processes that impact the quality of life and health domains.
A Stockton, CA native, Bianette Perez returned home after attending UCLA to support her community. She works with the organization Little Manila Rising to lead their Youth Health Advocates program, which injects youth perspectives into vital conversations surrounding immigration reform, transportation inclusion strategies, and the California State Delta Stewardship Council’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Climate Vulnerability Assessment. Bianette’s transformative program centers the voices of young people of color and the communities they represent into a conversation that will shape California’s adaptation strategies.
Represented by Board Secretary Paul Beier, Friends of the Rio de Flag (FoRio) has grown from a small group of concerned citizens to an organized regional leader in watershed management and planning. The organization is committed to serving the Flagstaff, AZ community, especially those who have traditionally been left out of the conversations in natural resource planning efforts, and who have been burdened by decades of flooding due to historic decisions that reflect lasting racial discrimination by economic interests. Through years of coordination and partnership building with community members and natural resource managers, FoRio has built an alliance of key stakeholders committed to addressing watershed issues in the Flagstaff area.