Mel is the education and outreach coordinator for ORK, which means she is often found in classrooms, at outdoor events, or in the creek leading a cleanup. She works to make sure the public has access to the resources ORK has to offer and to make sure citizens have plenty of chances to interact with ORK’s many facets.
She works with volunteers who help with the Adopt-A-Stream program and with cleanups, coordinates efforts with municipalities and partner organizations, and shares educational tools with educators and the public.
No two days are ever the same in this work. “I find what people have in common when it comes to environmental things, specifically related to water, and bring them together,” Mel says. “One day I might be doing data analysis, another I might be in the river doing cleanups, the next I might be planning social events for our members.”
Mel’s background and education is just as varied as the many aspects of water quality work. She received her bachelor’s degree from UGA in anthropology and archaeology, going on to do field work in Belize. She worked on Maya ruins, unearthing communities and finding artifacts.
For a time, Mel was based out of the West Coast between the Redwoods of California to Orcas Island, Washington, where she did a mixture of work with local food movements, archaeology research and a YMCA summer camp.
“It was a new environment, filled with natural beauty and unique opportunities,” Mel recalls. “I got to use my archaeology degree to do field work for several different projects and I had a chance to do environmental education in a different part of the world.”
She returned to Georgia and earned her master’s degree in social sciences with a focus in environmental anthropology.
“This job is a perfect combination of my various skills and educational background,” Mel says of Ogeechee Riverkeeper. “And I think people would be surprised just how much my anthropology and archaeology degrees truly relate to this job.”
She also underlines the importance of digging in and learning from all your experiences. “Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and take positions that may not directly apply to your degree – you never know where it will take you and what connections you’ll make along the way.”
Mel has found plenty in ORK’s watershed to inspire her – both in good and bad aways. The ecological variety is astounding and it’s amazing “how much cool wildlife you can find when you spend time observing.” She’s also discovered that river landings are considered party venues for many, and while she understands the draw to be in a beautiful setting, the disrespect displayed by what is left behind only makes her more determined to protect our waterways through education and volunteerism.
What is your idea of happiness?
- A sunset with a warm breeze & sounds of plants moving in the wind. And an endless supply of fresh mangoes.
Who are your favorite painters and composers?
- Too many painters….I was an art history minor so I won’t bore y’all with the list of names. Too many composers but definitely Paul McCartney is at the top of the list.
What is your favorite bird?
- 3 Way Tie: Mississippi Kite, Kingfisher and Turkey Vulture
What is your most treasured possession?
- Harry Potter books. Just kidding. Maybe.
What is the dumbest way you’ve been hurt?
- Fell down the stairs in high school on my birthday and sprained my ankle which ruined soccer season for me.
What’s the best type of cheese for you?
- Cabot Extra Sharp – or any cheese, really.
What’s the worst color that was ever invented?
- Magenta Pink that is not a part of nature (flowers, the sky, etc.)
Which talent would you most like to have?
- Musical talent
What takes a lot of time but is totally worth it?
- Vacuuming & organizing
What topic could you give a 20-minute presentation on without any preparation?
- Local food movements
What’s the most amazing natural occurrence you’ve witnessed?
- The after effects of the 2009 tsunami in Japan off the California coast.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
- “At the end of the day…”; “Dude”
What is your motto?
- Do yoga.