University of Alabama Students Kayak 340 Miles for Alabama River Conservation

UA students Chris Cochrane and Collin Williams celebrate the completion of their 15-day, 340-mile kayaking trip to raise awareness about river conservation efforts in Alabama. They paddled from Tuscaloosa to Mobile. UA students Chris Cochrane and Collin Williams celebrate the completion of their 15-day, 340-mile kayaking trip to raise awareness about river conservation efforts in Alabama. They paddled from Tuscaloosa to Mobile. Black Warrior Riverkeeper

Two students from the University of Alabama recently completed a 340-mile paddling trip from Tuscaloosa to Mobile, to raise awareness for river conservation efforts in Alabama. Chris Cochrane of Gadsden and Collin Williams of Nashville traveled down the Black Warrior River and the Tombigbee River for 15 days.

Cochrane, a recent graduate of environmental science, and Williams, a marine science student, wanted to highlight the importance of freshwater conservation to Alabama’s ecosystem, which contains 38 percent of North America’s fish species and more species of freshwater fish, crayfish, mussels, turtles, and snails than any other state in the U.S.

“People don’t usually talk about freshwater conservation until something terrible happens, so we really wanted to expose the citizens of Alabama, and the country as a whole, to this important concept,” said Cochrane.

Though both students have a considerable educational background in environmental science, they wanted to take some of the lessons they have learned and apply them outside of the classroom.

“I have always been very passionate about freshwater ecosystems, and about a year ago, I had a dream that inspired me to start planning this long distance kayaking trip,” said Williams.

Proceeds raised from the journey, “Kayaking for Conservation,” are being donated to Black Warrior Riverkeeper and Mobile Baykeeper, two of eight organizations in Alabama affiliated with Waterkeeper Alliance. Charles Scribner, Executive Director of Black Warrior Riverkeeper, believes this is an important way to showcase the linkage between Alabama’s rivers.

“Through river exploration, a great American tradition, these students have highlighted the connectivity of Tuscaloosa and Mobile, while also supporting the two Waterkeeper groups who protect that vital nexus,” said Scribner.

A few staff members of Mobile Baykeeper joined the students and paddle the last mile of their journey with them, concluding the trip at Scott’s Landing on Friday, May 27, where they were met by cheering family and friends.

“What these guys did to raise awareness for river conservation in our great state is beyond admirable,” said Justine Herlihy, Development Director for Mobile Baykeeper.

In addition to raising awareness for river conservation efforts, Williams hopes his idea will help inspire other students to embark on a similar adventure.

“I hope our trip inspires others to get outside and experience everything the streams and rivers of Alabama have to offer,” said Williams.

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