WE SAT DOWN WITH AUWRC’S CAROLINA RUIZ ALABAMA WATER WATCH’S ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
Carolina with Cahaba Lilies, one of the most iconic plants on the Cahaba River. Photo Credits: Sydney Zinner
Tell us about your background and current position.
Carolina helping train new Alabama Water Watch volunteers. Photo Credit: Sydney Zinner
Describe your activities and projects with Alabama Water Watch and the Alabama Water Resources Conference?
I manage the day-to-day office tasks to maintain our operations at the AUWRC. I ensure the training materials and supplies needed for out-of-town workshops are packed for secure transport and I also make sure that we have enough Alabama Water Watch materials and supplies on hand for various events that the team does locally.
I usually am the first point of contact with the Alabama Water Watch volunteer monitors or other members of the community who stop by the office with questions. My role has expanded into helping conduct field work for research and being more involved in the lab work. I appreciate the variety of the work I get to do – getting the materials and supplies ready at the office, traveling and assisting with workshops around the state, supporting our volunteer water monitors and trainers, and also participating in field or lab work. I am currently working with AWW through their ongoing partnership with AU’s Risk Management & Safety, where we assist by monitoring E.coli levels here on campus at Parkerson Mill Creek.
For our Alabama Water Resources Conference, I help plan and organize the details of the event – from arranging abstracts and speaker bios to making sure your talk is loaded in the right room at the right time, I’m always thinking through logistics to make sure things turn out well!
Carolina and co-worker Rachel Mcguire kick off the 2022 ALWRC Conference. Photo Credit: Mona Dominguez
What do you most enjoy about your work with the WRC?
Something that I really enjoy is planning and facilitating the annual Alabama Water Resources Conference. I love being behind the scenes, making sure all the parts and pieces of the conference flow smoothly so that to all attending, it appears a seamless and effortless production. Because it is our largest event of the year, planning it can be quite stressful at times, but it also gives me a break from our daily tasks. Since I can’t resolve all our problems at each moment, I focus on the most pressing ones – I see it like a puzzle, and I try breaking the tasks down into more manageable parts and then resolving each with considerate administration.
Carolina and co-worker Sydney Zinner on the Cahaba River. Photo Credit: Mona Dominguez
In your career, what’s the best advice you’ve been given?
One piece of advice that really stands out to me was from one of my Interior Design professors. She advised us to, “find your fit.” She explained that even if we landed our dream design job, if we didn’t work well with our team, coworkers, bosses etc., we wouldn’t be able to reach our true potential.
The people around you are just as important as the work you do, and if you aren’t happy working with them, or you don’t work well within your team, it will be reflected in the work you do. I think having a great team and positive work environment really allows all of us to grow into our roles to the best of our abilities and I truly believe that is reflected in the work we have been able to accomplish. That is a big part of the reason that I’ve continued working here at the Water Resources Center and with Alabama Water Watch. It’s a great “fit”.
Carolina helps lead an Alabama Water Watch Chemistry training for volunteers. Photo Credit: Mona Dominguez
In your view, what are future priorities for Alabama water resources outreach, education, and/or research?
Diversity: As for future priorities, I would like to see more diversity in our outreach efforts. I’m interested in ways that we can become more inclusive. Water resources belong to everyone.
Expanded programming: AWW/the WRC have an impressive academic network and we have initiated hands-on educational programs with schools and 4-H clubs in several nearby counties. I think we could expand even more, and reach more underserved areas across the state. Water is essential to all of life, and necessary for learning and living – until you don’t have access to clean water. I think more people are realizing this as it becomes more scarce.
Collaboration: Collaborative research in water resources is very important, I would also like to see more collaboration between different states, different universities, different organizations, and even different countries. Water is so vital, but it is such an undervalued resource so it can be easily taken for granted. That is why the collaborative work AWW/the WRC is doing is so significant.