Paddling the Flint with the GWRC

A NEWLY-FORMED STUDENT ORGANIZATION, THE GRADUATE WATER RESOUCES CLUB, FLOATED THE UPPER FLINT RIVER OF GEORGIA THIS MAY.

What is the GWRC?

The Graduate Water Resources Club (GWRC) was established in January 2021 with 20 founding members. One of the founding ideas behind the GWRC was the benefit all students could gain from an interdisciplinary club.  The group members’ demographics are quite diverse across academic disciplines (i.e. geography, geology, engineering, crop and soil sciences, fisheries, wildlife, forestry, etc.) with students from all over the US and international students from South America and Asia. The only exclusive aspect of GWRC is tailoring meetings to graduate students that are particularly interested in or researching water. With that said, GWRC webinars and outreach events are open to all.

We spoke with GWRC president, Coleman Barrie, a PhD candidate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the Auburn University Samuel Ginn College of Engineering:

“Gordon Rogers [of Flint Riverkeeper] was my clear go-to for the club’s first guest and collaborator,” Barrie said. “We were introduced through my previous employer and current research collaborator at the Jones Center at Ichauway located on the Lower Flint River. I also volunteered for the Flint Riverkeeper annual fundraiser/music festival Knobby Knees in Albany, GA  and appreciated his knowledgeable, yet fun, approach to discussing water resources on the Flint River with community members.

Fast forward a couple years to the club’s inception, and Gordon agreed to deliver a presentation titled, ‘What the heck is a riverkeeper?’ highlighting his role, water policy, and region-specific issues.”

Gordon Rogers of Flint Riverkeeper educates GWRC members during the float trip.

The Flint River

The Flint River of Georgia is 344 miles long with headwaters starting under the runways of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and ultimately joins the Chattahoochee River at the Georgia-Florida state line to form the Apalachicola River. The Flint is one of only 40 rivers in the United States to flow over 150 miles without a dam on its main stem. The Flint is home to many threatened and endangered flora and fauna, including the Cahaba lily, an aquatic, perennial plant only found in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

The GWRC found Cahaba lilies in bloom along the Upper Flint River.

The GWRC hosted a couple meetings prior to the float trip explaining the do’s, don’ts, and logistics since quite a few club members had never floated a river. Despite this, the float trip was a great success and went swimmingly! The group navigated rocky shoals, packed their lunches to eat riverside, and most importantly, everyone stayed safe. Gordon Rogers accompanied the group as a river guide as well.

“The river trip took education to the next level as the club experienced the beauty of the river first-hand with a local expert by our side. As graduate students, we spend so much time reading and analyzing water and it really felt like an ‘Ah-ha’ moment being in the water,'” Barrie said.

“It’s not very common to have a room full of water-enthusiasts unless you’re at a conference. So gathering locally in a casual setting is something we all seem to benefit from.”

-Coleman Barrie, PhD Candidate

A couple GWRC paddlers take a break to enjoy the view of the shoals.

The GWRC plans to host another float trip on the Coosa River in Fall 2021. Justinn Overton, Executive Director of the Coosa Riverkeeper, may be accompanying the group as well. Overton is the guest speaker for GWRC’s next webinar about water policy and the Coosa River in late August/early September 2021. 

How do I find out more about joining GWRC?

For more information, contact Coleman Barrie: cjb0155@auburn.edu.