• RiverWatch Volunteer Award Winners


    Volunteer of the Year Award – Mary Vieregg

    Riverwatch Volunteer of the Year 2020 Mary ViereggMary Vieregg leads a team of volunteers in monitoring water quality at the Nachusa Grasslands. She is a former high school biology teacher who coordinates monitoring events that include both experienced and novice participants. For the past seven years, Mary has submitted samples from sites on Clear Creek, Wade Creek, and Babbling Brook. In addition, Mary is the chair of the Friends of Nachusa Grasslands Scientific Research Grant Committee, which awards grants related to water quality studies at the preserve.

    Partner Prize – Upper Sangamon River Conservancy

    Since 2009, members of the Upper Sangamon River Conservancy (USRC) have worked to preserve, maintain, monitor, and promote appropriate public use and awareness of the Upper Sangamon River. They monitor aquatic invertebrates for RiverWatch at nine sites, often introducing student groups and new volunteers to the program. USRC also participates in RiverWatch mussel monitoring, with a rotating schedule of monitoring at 4 locations to prevent harming the communities by over-sampling. They host river clean-ups, make presentations about the river and water quality at area farmers' markets, and participate in roadside clean-ups and invasive species removal events. Current board members of the USRC are Bruce Colravy*, Joe Niernberger*, Scott Hays, Bart Duesdieker, Mike Daab, Mary Stech*, Phil Hult*, Elizabeth Kirby*, Nick Frillman, and Ken Keefe*. 

    * denotes RiverWatch citizen scientists

    Lifetime Achievement Award – James Pustz

    Riverwatch Volunteer Lifetime Achievement Award 2020 James PustzJames Pustz was first trained in the RiverWatch program in 1995 and has submitted data for 19 years at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Fellow volunteers describe James as skilled and knowledgeable and are grateful that they can depend on him to share his time and skills. He regularly participates in the annual National Public Lands Day at Midewin, demonstrating RiverWatch sampling to members of the public. He and his team also monitor temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and flow at five locations on a monthly basis between April and October as part of a program that helps the staff at Midewin to monitor stream health.