A view of the Rivanna River from Free Bridge

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is now accepting applications for VoiCeS (Volunteers as Chesapeake Stewards), a seven-week education course focused on bringing stewardship and water quality information to adults interested in learning about conservation.

This will be the third year the course is offered in Charlottesville.  The Rivanna River watershed feeds into the Chesapeake Bay.

“We’ve been doing our work for a long time, and there are a lot of people who are interested in Chesapeake Bay issues,” said Chuck Epes, the assistant director of media relations for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “Either they live near the bay, or they enjoy fishing or crabbing, or they have a natural interest in the bay. We started the course in order to address that natural curiosity.”

Topics for the course this year include legislation, water management, restoration efforts, natural history and wildlife. A combination of policy experts, professors, ecology professionals, and foundation staffers will lead the class discussions.

Past speakers have included Delegate Ed Scott and Rick Parrish, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.  

Students will also attend two field trips during the seven-week course – a canoe trip on the Rivanna River, and a stream walking tour at a location to be determined.

“It’s one thing to talk about things in a classroom situation; it’s another to get them out there with the resources,” said Robert Jennings, grassroots field specialist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “Our actions on land are what’s causing the problems in the water. A lot of people who live in Charlottesville have never kayaked our canoed on the river, and we hope the trips captivate them.”

Following the course, students are expected to complete 40 hours of volunteer service on a conservation project of their choosing, after which they will receive a designation as a “Chesapeake Steward.”

“It can be as simple as neighborhood recycling or more complex,” Epes said. “One year, one of our volunteers applied for and got a $100,000 grant to restore the natural soil in the Jamestown River area. We ask that students give back to some of the things they learned about.”

The course will be taught at the Hilton Garden Inn on Pantops from 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays. The deadline to apply is Sept. 26. To apply, contact Robert Jennings at (484) 888-2966, or via email at rjennings@cbf.org.  More information is available online at www.cbf.org/Virginia.