During the winter term of 2010, students enrolled in an environmental studies special topics course, called Landowners and Water Quality: Stories of Changing Watershed Relationships. As part of the Chesapeake Bay Program, students conducted interviews with landowners in the Hays Creek watershed, which enters the Maury River upriver from Lexington. Hays Creek is considered an impaired watershed by the Commonwealth of Virginia due to high levels of bacterial pollution.
Students learned about how the health of Hays Creek relates to the environmental issues in the Chesapeake Bay watershed as whole and studied the field research methodology for qualitative interviews and oral histories. They applied the knowledge and skills by investigating the relationship between landowners and water quality in Hays Creek through their own interviews with nine landowners.
The interviews ranged from traditional oral histories, in which they interviewed lifelong residents of the watershed about their experiences living in Rockbridge County, to more investigative interviews about the best management practices implemented by farmers in the watershed. In addition to writing formal research papers, students also created and produced digital stories. These digital stories served as an opportunity for students to synthesize their learning and a product to share with the community members.
We are posting them online for campus and community enjoyment. We sincerely thank the nine individuals who shared their time, knowledge, and thoughts with us.