Name: Kelsey Stafford

Position: Water quality intern, National Park Service, Department of the Interior

Best known for: Stafford has spent the summer as a National Park Service intern, helping to monitor 10 streams along the George Washington Memorial Parkway — a job that provides the government and area residents with important information about the local environment and water quality. These streams, which include Spout Run in Arlington, feed into the Potomac River and ultimately affect the area’s drinking water. Stafford has worked in record-breaking heat measuring the water chemistry and biology to assess the health of each stream. She has tested the water for chlorine, phosphorus and nitrates and looked for the presence of dragonflies, freshwater clams, worms and crayfish that serve as water-quality, stream-health and environmental indicators. From these measurements, Stafford and fellow intern Michael Wills have determined the pollution levels for each of the 10 streams. The research will be included in an annual report distributed by the Park Service, providing area residents with water quality scores ranging from one to 12 for each stream.

Government work: After graduating from the Virginia Military Institute with a degree in biology, Stafford spent six months interning for the U.S. Forest Service in a remote section of the Alaskan wilderness, where she helped determine the best way to increase vegetation growth after the area was logged. Her experience doing research and field work with the Forest Service led to her internship with the National Park Service.

Motivation for service: Growing up, Stafford traveled to national parks across the country, and from that experience she “wanted to be a part of an organization that conserves and protects these amazing places.” She said her internship with the National Park Service “enables me to learn about our natural resources and educate others on how to protect these amazing natural resources we have in our back yards.”

Biggest challenge: One of the biggest challenges is the lack of public awareness about protecting the watersheds and how they are directly affected by what happens in people’s back yards. For example, Stafford said actions such as dumping chemicals down a drain or pumping chlorinated pool water into a back yard can have a huge impact on the aquatic life of the streams and on drinking water. Stafford makes a point to teach people she encounters on the job about how they can be better stewards of the watersheds.

Quote: “I feel so privileged to be part of a program not only leading the way in stream water-quality monitoring for the National Capital Region Network, but making a difference in helping people learn how to preserve these resources in the back yard of our nation’s capital, and across our entire country.”

— From the Partnership for Public Service

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