A West Virginia University graduate student is surveying recreational users of selected watersheds to help find a way to involve the users in managing the waterways.

As part of her research, Jennie Franks, a Geneseo, Ill., native pursuing a master’s degree in wildlife and fisheries resources as part of the WVU Peace Corps Masters International Program, is conducting internet-based recreational surveys for 12 of West Virginia’s watersheds.

She is specifically surveying those who fish, swim and boat – three of the most common water-based recreation activities – in the following watersheds: Cacapon River, Cheat River, Coal River, Elk River, Gauley River, Greenbrier River, Kanawha River, Middle New River, Monongahela River, South Branch Potomac River, Tug Fork River, Tygart Valley River and the Upper Guyandotte River.

“The best way to acquire an accurate representation of user perceptions is to ask those who utilize the rivers and streams regularly,” she said.

Franks will then combine the survey results for each watershed with previously gathered fishery data.

Fish are often used as indicators for stream health because of their diverse morphological, ecological and behavioral adaptations, as well as their ability to occupy all positions within aquatic environments.

Combining the data obtained from both user perceptions and fish population studies may provide a means to involve local residents in conservation strategies – especially when it comes to priority setting while managing rivers and streams.

Prioritizing, Franks explained, is a current challenge faced by many states.

“We know how to identify and monitor our waters but which and in what order do we put efforts toward preserving or restoring,” she said. “With limited funds and resources, we have to choose which waters are priorities. As biologists it is easy to focus on what can be measured and assessed, it is not easy to evaluate complex socio-economic conditions but it is essential for restoration or protection efforts.”

Watershed management has shown to be most effective following a bottom-up approach where management begins with the individual.

“If the public participates, understands and learns to appreciate rivers and streams for their cultural, social and ecological importance, it’s the beginning of change to our water resources,” Franks said.

Interested recreational users in the targeted watershed areas can find survey links by visiting http://grad.davis.wvu.edu/recreational-user-survey.

For questions, comments or more information about the study, contact Franks at jfranks1@mix.wvu.edu.

Housed within the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, the PCMI program allows students who are U.S. citizens to combine pursuit of a graduate degree at with a full Peace Corps tour of service.

The vision of the WVU-PCMI is to prepare graduate students with the advanced coursework, research experience, and professional guidance needed to succeed in Peace Corps service and in careers related to environmental science and policy, forestry and natural resource management, and sustainable development.



CONTACT: Lindsay A. Willey; Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
304.293.2381; Lindsay.Willey@mail.wvu.edu

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