Alexandria Searls- City of Charlottesville Resident

Tell us about your volunteer activities.
I am the Executive Director of the Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center, so I’m often doing community activities for work: taking children on hikes and kayak trips; tending a public garden that’s part of a seed exchange with Monticello and North Dakota; and leading school groups in art and science activities.  My main volunteer activity when I’m not working involves monitoring the Rivanna River and its streams with photography. I do underwater photography, and I’m sensitive to the health of the river.  My photos show the sediment issues, and I have reported construction projects for sediment problems. I’ve also gone on kayak trips with the Rivanna Conservation Alliance where I’ve photographed and helped their river guides make notes on the condition of the river and about the animals that we’ve observed.  Keeping track of animals along the Rivanna gives a lot of clues about environmental health.  I take people out on the river with me, and I also help people with their own nature photography. I also live by a stream that feeds into the Rivanna.  I watch it and listen to it all the time.

What inspires you to volunteer?    
I am very happy when I’m out on the river. It’s relaxing being in the water, especially on a hot summer day. I enjoy bird watching and learning from what I see. This year I saw a red shouldered hawk flying at top speed through the woods above a human-made trail—an interesting mix of nature and human design. I also saw an eagle weaving between trees on Monticello Mountain.  It makes me feel more alive to notice the life of other creatures.

If your volunteer work could make one long-lasting change, what would you want it to be? 
I would like to spark people’s interest in their environment. I’d like them to relax out in nature and experience what’s around them in a physical and contemplative way.

What is a little-known fact about you?
I don’t mind getting muddy. I think it’s good for you.

What brought you to Charlottesville/Albemarle County?  
I came to Charlottesville to go to UVA. I was born in Lynchburg, not too far away, but I grew up in several places, including Manhattan, where I went to high school. I didn’t know how to drive until I was 25. Wanting to ride horses here in Charlotttesville helped inspire me to get my license.